Standardised work

Standardised work is becoming an ever smaller part of our work.
– Change is constant.
– Too much is unknown.
– Knowledge work is intangible, voluntary, and shared. It’s value is subjective. It is unmeasurable.

Efficiency and effectiveness are no longer the goals. Agility is.

I wish I had time to do the second edition of my book to draw this out more

Something like office admin can be predominantly clerical work rather than knowledge work, and hence amenable to standardisation.

However, as we move from industrial to service to information economy, more work is knowledge work as compared to clerical or industrial (or agricultural).
Work that can be standardised is clerical or industrial, and it can be automated: IT and robotics will increasingly do so.

Secondly, standardisation of work assumes a steady state environment. It is only repeatable for as long as it stays the same. Change is accelerating everywhere.

Thirdly, though related: our ability to model systems as simple ones, fully known and predictable, was always an approximation of reality. That approximation works in tightly constrained and stabilised flows, such such as production lines. It fails more often in a VUCA world.

Finally, standard work is the least interesting work in a VUCA world. It’s the systems of record, the BAU, the transactional.

Continuous Improvement is the foundation of agility, but we must rethink how it works. It is an adaptation to changing conditions, driven by a constantly reprioritised backlog of change. We try to use data but it is always incomplete and ambiguous, so it has to be experimental.