Standard Work

Standard work includes the steps, actions, materials, and timing required to create happy customers. And, happy customers are the ones that know you are going to be consistent.


Maybe more importantly, standard work provides the foundation that allows businesses to improve. When consistency exists, changes are easy to make. And, clear understanding of what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and why do it allows employees to get engaged in making it better.

One of the biggest mistakes a manager or business owner can make is in failing to coach staff, failure to direct the development of the work they do, and failure to ensure the work they do (all the time) supports the vision.

Development of a work standard begins with the identification of key business processes. Key business processes are the most important parts of your business. From the customer's perspective, a key business process is one that adds or has the potential to add value to the transaction.

A retail store might identify some of its key business processes as:

  • the customer greeting
  • shelf stocking and merchandising
  • the sales interaction
  • the check out process

Each one of these components can, in a thoughtful and innovative business, become a unique competitive advantage.

As an example, lets take the customer greeting. Over the past couple years, the act of greeting a customer the moment they walk in the door has hit a ridiculous level. Some businesses do this very well and have used it as part of their branding.

Consider Moe's Southwest Grill. "Welcome to Moe's!" has become a hallmark of the experience of eating there. For the most part, the greeting is well integrated and obviously includes an enthusiastic approach designed to draw the customer into the action. With the exception of the locations that have obvious culture problems, they are consistent.

Contrast the Moe's example with Blockbuster Video. In my town, we still have one. A year or two ago, the staff started greeting customers when they enter. A good idea. But, it is clear that all componenents of the standard work have not been consistently deployed to each employee. It provides a striking contrast, because instead of "Welcome!", they could just as easily be saying, "My boss told me to say hi to you, so, hey." They couldn't care less.

But the point is, they have a foundation. If someone wanted to improve the effectiveness of the greeting, they could. To their credit, at least they consistently communicate lack of passion. Do they have any evidence that going through the exercise makes me rent more or come back more often. I seriously doubt it. But they could improve. Opportunity for improvement is the benefit of standard work.

Work that follows a standard is systematic. It is well-ordered, repeatable, and ideally uses data that allows for improvement.

How many missed opportunities occur at cash registers every day? What if a few key words, or a customer-centered action could increase sales? What if a business took the opportunity to engage an already sold customer in another transaction- either at that moment or some point in the future?

Those opportunities are missed every day. Some by employees that believe the standard work is to run the register instead of connect with the customer. Others by store owners or managers that don't take the opportunity to upsell at the point of sale.

None of it is difficult. It just takes thought.

Standard work allows you to have a thought, try it, measure it, and improve it.


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