Leader Standard Work

These practices are often known as Leaders Standard Work, and include:

  • Gemba walks (in our case focused ‘Line Walks’)
  • Developing and using checklists
  • Daily Operations Review Meetings
  • Visual Boards
  • Quality Stations & Conversations
  • Coaching and Improvement ‘Kata’
  • Team structures
  • Non-negotiable Team Processes
  • Problem-solving (Root Cause Analysis/5Why’s)
  • Leaders as ‘teachers’

Leader Standard Work is the essence of leaders as teachers. It defines expectations, making it clear through behaviours that something new is expected. It distils concepts into practices, focuses a spotlight on improvement, and highlights problems so they can be immediately addressed. It is the key to the establishment and management of a learning organisation that allows improvement gains to be sustained.

Leadership practices at every level

Leaders at every level – executives, value stream managers, shift managers, supervisors, team leaders – each have a set of standard practices that in the aggregate, keep improvement efforts moving forward and tied to organisational goals. It is the socialisation of the hierarchy!


A kata typically refers to fundamental movements in Japanese martial arts, but can refer to any basic form, routine, or pattern of behaviour. Recognisable patterns of behaviour and clear expectations make it easy to recognise abnormalities (problems) and serve as a basis of improvement, setting and attaining higher standards.

In lean management, kata refers to two linked behaviours: improvement kata and coaching kata.

Improvement kata is a repeating four-step routine by which an organization improves and adapts. It makes continuous improvement through the scientific problem-solving method of plan, do, check, act (PDCA) a daily habit. The four steps are:

  • Determine a vision or direction
  • Grasp the current condition
  • Define the next target condition
  • Move toward the target (the plan or “P” defined by the first three steps) through quick, iterative PDCA cycles to uncover and remove obstacles.

Coaching kata is the repeating routine by which lean leaders and managers teach the improvement kata to everyone in the organisation. The teacher or coach gives the learner procedural guidance – not solutions – that make the learner successful in overcoming obstacles.

(Adapted from Rother, 2010, and Shook, 2008.)