Standard Work plays quite a significant role in Lean practice. But in the wrong hands it can do a lot of damage.
Standardisation is very appealing, particularly to managers. They tend to like uniformity, a sense of order – doing everything in the same way. It makes their life easier.
As an improvement technique, standard work has an important role to play, but the conditions need to be right.
The ability to standardise something is directly proportional to the variation in demand.
If you attempt to standardise the response to a highly variable demand, you will end up only meeting some of that demand. Result – unhappy/lost customers, failed school children and patients; and lots of failure demand.
It is the nature of services that many have highly variable demand, so the scope for standardisation is limited. It is not like building cars.
In the private sector you can standardise by limiting your market, i.e. by attracting only those customers that fit your standardised offering, thus reducing the variation in demand. But this will deny you total market share. Ryanair is a good example of this. In the public sector, this is rarely an option, but state-funded selective schools are an example of this.
So, when designing services, use Standard Work with caution. Understand the problem you are trying to solve and always ask yourself, what is the variation in demand.