The term “Leader Standard Work” is a mouthful. So, let’s call it what it is. It’s a practice to structure one’s time so that it is intentionally in service of their highest and best use. More simply, it is how we optimize our use of time. LSW is not a “once and done” effort, but rather a relentless practice.

  • It begins with defining value. What behavior/skill/relationship do you want to develop that is meaningful to you and vital to one of your key roles in life?
  • Once value has been defined, then we have to translate intention into action. What are regular actions that will help us become that aspirational version of ourselves? These can be little daily actions, more substantive weekly actions, more strategic or reflective monthly actions or ideally a combination of the three.
  • When those actions and cadence have been defined, then we have to schedule them, prioritize them, and protect them. This requires discipline and focus.
  • As will any lean practice, after some weeks we re-evaluate whether our LSW is as impactful as we had hoped and adjust as needed.

Essentially LSW replaces unconscious habituated actions devoid of direct purpose with intentional habituated actions in service of some greater purpose. Another important nuance is that in LSW the purpose stays constant, but the actions to enable that purpose may change over time. For example, LSW for someone who wants to be a better parent might look like:

  • Purpose - To foster a closer relationship with my son/daughter
  • Daily – 5 minutes of time solely focused on connecting with them
  • Weekly – 1 hour of time doing something with them
  • Monthly – revisit the last month and adjust as needed to better realize your intent

Another example that is more work-related may be a project executive that is trying to build or strengthen their client connections. Their LSW for that part of their role might look like:

  • Purpose – Build and/or strengthen client relationships
  • Daily – an email or phone call to an existing or prospective client
  • Weekly – a meeting/lunch/dinner with an existing/prospective client
  • Monthly – plan out the next month of weekly events
  • Quarterly – Re-evaluate strategic client list and plan, reflect on effectiveness

These are some basic examples, but LSW can be used to accomplish almost anything. It simply requires clear intention, thoughtful actions, discipline, and reflection. LSW is also a basic tenet of any valuable lean strategy. In Last Planner, we have the intention of making reliable commitments and collective accountability. We use the combination of daily huddles, weekly work planning, phase planning every 6-12 weeks, and phase planning (every 6-8 weeks) to optimize the team’s time together. In target value design, we have the intention of working together to generate creative solutions to achieve an ambitious goal. As such, we may use a combination of daily cross-functional working sessions, weekly report outs/decision making, weekly updating of cost/scope/schedule based on those decisions, monthly clean-up sessions to ensure that the BIM, cost model, and schedule are up to standards, and monthly reflections sessions to improve the process, team health, and interim focus of the team.

LSW is such a simple yet profound practice. In addition to the direct effects, when done well, LSW creates a high-performance routine that we can continuously add to or modify. It creates a rhythm that others calibrate to that serves as a grounding force in times of crisis or chaos as well as an inspirational example for others to follow. Leader Standard Work is powerful tool for optimizing the value of our time and living intentionally. After all, when it is all said and done, time is our most precious resource.

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Andreas is principal and founder of The Collective Potential, a catalyst for change at the organizational, project team, and individual level. His early work in building envelope systems provided him a holistic and integrated perspective (i.e. building science, design, constructability, and forensics). His subsequent doctoral work studied the social and technical factors affecting collaboration and integration in complex teams. Later, he worked at Balfour Beatty leading their research and development group in creating and scaling best practices across the US. All of these experiences have led to his current work and passion in driving transformational change through a mix of lean principles, depth psychology, and seeing every moment as an opportunity to realize more of our inherent potential.