Experience Required…or is it?

As I scour employment websites almost all positions have an “experience” requirement. We all recognize the value of experience; but is it enough?

Let’s start by defining the value of an experienced employee from the employer’s perspective: Simply, it is someone who makes better in-process decisions. Typically work looks like this: Prepare to work – begin work – make in-process decisions – finish work – repeat. As illustrated in the picture below the process of the experienced employee differs from the process of the less experienced employee. Can anyone say “Variation”.


Alright I’ll admit it, I want things now. I don’t want to wait three, five, or ten years for my new employee to be as good as my seasoned employee. I want it now! If not now, as fast as humanly possible comes in a distant second.

My question for you is this: How do we capture the wisdom of experienced employees so we don’t have to wait as long for the next generation to be as productive? The answer is….wait for it….standard work. Yes, our old friend and key Lean Six Sigma weapon in the fight against variation.

Standard Work is the agreed set of work procedures to accomplish a task (normally visual or graphical). It is very common with police procedures, medical protocols, hazardous working environments, etc. Entire training programs are designed to teach the “standard”, when the standard changes everyone is trained on the new standard. It gives us process stability and predictability of output. Standard work is applied exceptionally well when life or limb is at risk. What about other “non-lethal” work processes? Well…not so much.

There it is, apply Standard Work to capture the wisdom of experienced employees and pass it down to the newest employees. With exceptional standard work the requirement for experience is less important and organizational success is less reliant on one or two individuals (less vulnerable to risk). With good standard work new employees work much like a seasoned employees, meaning they make better in-process decisions.