To Standardize, or to Not?
A frequent question that I get is how far to take standardization. This is particularly true for multiple locations. Then the question becomes how far do you go to standardize from site to site.
As with anything, to key to avoid getting lost in questions like this is to get and remain clear on the purpose of any tool. What is the purpose of standardization?
- Deliver repeatable results
- Develop a baseline upon which to manage and measure improvement
- Enable you to spot problems and variation
- Enable the transfer of knowledge
So with than in mind, what should you standardize across your network of operations and what should you not? Obviously there is a cost (although only in energy and resources) of creating and managing standardization across multiple locations. So when do the benefits outweigh the costs?
Let’s start with delivering repeatable results. If the process affects the customer value, such as how you process material, then having repeatable results is extremely important. If you are talking about how many steps to talk from one process to another, then repeatable results across sites isn’t nearly as vital.
Do you have a means to share best practices from site to site? Most organizations struggle with this, and there are no easy answers. But where you can, having some base standardization can aid in that transfer.
But consider the tradeoff. Standardization should also enable improvement. A lean organization should be improving through rapid experimentation every day. If cross-organizational standardization creates a bureaucracy that prevents rapid experimentation, then the true benefit is indeed lost.
The decision is something you must make for your organization. How deep, how broad, and how managed will your cross-site standardization be? Remember and evaluate the decision based on the benefits and tradeoffs. There is no one right answer, just don’t get locked into a path without realizing the benefits.
How has your organization handled this balance? What lessons have you learned?
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