By Jon Miller | Post Date: January 16, 2009 12:11 PM | Comments: 7
Does this translation expand to standardized work? My Western view of this definition is "This is how a process is done all the time by all people" involving the rest of the requirements for standardized work (takt time, etc).
It's a bit trickier than that actually. Hopefully what follows will clear up and not confuse. In English, the one word "standard" can mean variously:
And we could go on and on but we won't. Relevant to our discussion of kaizen, lean manufacturing and the Toyota Production System there is a very specific usage of the word within the concept of standard work. Part of the confusion around standard work stems from the fact that standardization is also important, but very different. There are also work standards, very different but important. And then there is standardized work. A reader asked:
What is the difference between standard work and standardized work?
And our reply:
Personally I think "standardized work" is an inferior translation of the Japanese term and that "standard work" is more accurate. "Standardized" means something has been brought into conformity with a standard, while "standard" means a norm or requirement. Standard work is not so much conformity against a standard time or method so much as an agreed basis for performing and improving a process.
At English-speaking Toyota sites they call it "standardized work" and much of the recent literature references this term.
Before we dive into the world of standards, it may be useful for the reader who is relatively new to standard work / standardized work as part of the Toyota Production System to read an article two from past years: Three Essential Supervisor Skills for Standard Work. If you are adequately familiar with standard work and have no fear of exposure to foreign languages, read on.
Three ways of saying "standard" in Japanese
Now we dive off of the deep end of Japanese linguistics and learn the finer points of the three (but not the only three) different ways to say "standard" ways. Japanese writing borrows from the Chinese script. Each symbol has a meaning as well as a sound. These symbols can be used by themselves or combined with others to make words, depending on the symbol. First, let's look at what's common between the three different ways. So like in many languages including English, prefix+suffix=new word.
All three terms for standard end have the same 準 (jun) prefix. When this "jun" character is attached as a suffix to other characters as in the examples below it means "something which corresponds to, conforms to, or the level of something". By looking at the different ways we can say "standard" in another language we can understand how we think of this concept in our own language, thereby learning how to clarify what we mean and express.
1. Standard as basis 基準 (kijun)
基 (basis, foundation) + 準 (conforms to) = 基準 (standard)
The following are common terms that use 基準 to mean standard as a basis or foundation.
安全基準 safety standards
As an adjective:
基準値 standard value
Note that you can have standard work for doing the audit, which will use information from and comply with the audit standard. Work should be done in a standard way conforming to some basis of foundation. However, this is not the meaning of standard we use to discuss standard work as part of the Toyota Production System.
2. Standard as level 水準 (suijun)
This type of standard is used as a noun and can mean very literally "water level" as well as levels (standards) of education, housing, living, etc.
給与水準 salary level
When we say "standard work" in the Toyota Production System we do not use this second type of standard because we do not mean a performance level or standard.
3. Standard as evident norm 標準 (hyoujun)
標 (mark, symbol, evidence, to indicate) + 準 (conforms to) = 標準 (standard)
This is the "standard" that is used for work standards, as well as standardization and standard work / standardized work. This very important word is constructed from the following two characters:
Standard 標準 as an adjective:
標準偏差 standard deviation
Standard 標準 as a noun:
業界標準 industry standard
Combined with "work" （作業） we can make work standards and standard work:
作業標準 work standards
The interesting thing about the word 標 included in the third type of standard is that it is used in various other words such as target (目標), coordinate (座標) as in y axis coordinate, indicator (指標) as in economic indicator, road sign (路標) and trademark (商標). All of these have the meaning in some way to show, indicate or make visible. A standard should inherently make the norm visible. As used in the term "standard work" we must think of "standard" as and "evident norm" and make this standard visible. We can understand the intention of "standard work" as a visual management tools for continuous improvement only by recognizing the deliberate choice of Japanese words used.
More of Taiichi Ohno's Wordplay
The concept of omote-jun as a standard is important simply because documenting the current method as standard is the very starting point of kaizen. Taiichi Ohno said that when you create standard work it was OK for it to be less than elegant, as long as you used this standard as a basis for continuous improvement. Standard work is not the idea of a certain fixed basis or foundation of work. Neither is it the idea of performing to a certain level or standard. It is the idea of creating the evident norm as a basis for making abnormality obvious so that kaizen can thrive.
The Standards and the Abnormality
If all of the above makes sense, let me muddle up the issue a bit more by saying:
Confused? Read on in an article from May 2007: Standards, Abnormality and the Ideal. If that doesn't clear things up, ask Gemba.Comments are moderated to filter spam and inappropriate content. There may be a delay before your comment is published.