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The Joy of Standards

The Joy of Standards


With its conversational tone and relevant, real-world examples, The Joy of Standards by James Sandfield offers clear guidance to anyone interested in the development and sustaining of standards in any work environment. While a book on standards may sound tedious and dense on the surface, this 150-page guidebook is filled with step-by-step exercises and examples ideal for reflection on how a process is currently done and how it can be made better.   


The Joy of Standards is a quick, enjoyable read perfect for anyone seeking a pragmatic guide to continuous improvement while gaining an overview of lean strategies.


The 12 Principles of Problem Solving


Sanfield describes a standard as a definition of a process which is intended to be followed, or a prescribed expectation of the result of a process (an output). Further, standards should be based on the observation of a process being performed and/or outcome requirements, respectively. 


Solving problems and striving for standards and standardized work are organized in the following steps within the Shewhart framework of “Plan-Do-Check-Act.”


“Plan” What to Do


1stEmpower a group of people

2ndEstablish a goal for improvement


Collectively, following the Plan principles should help establish team(s) of people who perform the process/do the work, with a measurable and purposeful goal on a process/job which they are engaged to act upon. The application and overall success of these principles is made possible by having a clear answer to the following question: What problem you are trying to solve? Or, what outcome you are trying to achieve?


“Do” Improvement


3rd  Understand the ways of working

4thFind a better sequence for the task

5thMake the workplace easy

6thFind a great way to follow the task


Exploring the Do principles should encourage a potential solution to take shape that will eliminate effort while maintaining or enhancing the good or service being provided/process or work being performed. The recurring theme throughout the Do principles is that of observation. Without knowing exactly how a process is being completed, one cannot make informed decisions about how to improve the process. 


“Check” Achievement


7thTest the proposed way of working

8thEvaluate the test

9thBuild consensus


The term “check” may sound simplistic, but following these principles involves some deep reflection and testing of the proposed solution. It is crucial that adequate time be spent on evaluation. By the time these principles come into focus, one should be able to prove that the proposed solution achieved or exceed the desired standard of improvement defined in the Plan principles. Worker buy-in should also be encouraged and supported at this stage.   


“Act” by Implementing


10th  Establish the new standard

11thTrain the new standard

12thManage the new standard


Act principles take the newly defined, tested, and accepted process toward continuous improvement.


Sanfield encourages the reader to pay proper attention to principles 2 and 8, as these two principles directly relate to defining the goal or target and then finding out if the goal was achieved. Simply put, know what problem you are trying to solve! 


Joy of Standard Reflection Questions:

Do you have any examples of success stories in which you or an organization successfully brought about lasting improvements via new standards? What are some proven strategies from your experiences to prevent processes from going back to “the old way?”







Sandfield, J. (2016). The Joy of Standards. San Bernardino, CA: CreateSpace Independent Publishing.

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