I've often wondered when the first attempt at Standardised Work was ever made. You know, like the bloke in charge of the pyramids or the artisan putting up Stonehenge. They must have had something, surely?
As you may know, GENEO has a SaaS platform for writing Standardised Work. It's pretty cool but what did people do in the very early days?
The Early Days of Work Instructions
I have it on good authority that the first Standardised Work ever written was found tucked under the saddle of Harold, the unfortunate King who caught an arrow in the eye at the battle of Hastings in 1066. If he'd followed the standard that had been created by his best armourer, Alyn Widdle, rather than thinking he knew better, there is a fair chance Engla Land, as it was known then, may not have been lost to the French.
[Alyn Widdle, famous armourer to King Harold at the battle of Hastings and founder of Standardised Work for safety and fighting.]
That's right, next time we go on about things not being cricket, old boy, or the Magna Carta, it's worth noting that a fair few of them Barons fighting for our liberties and sense of fair play were French.
That's not to say that Harold was English, considering his mum was Danish, and that his subjects were mainly German after the invasions during the 5th century. This really was the EU epicentre of the Middle Ages. I think I've digressed.
Standardised Work Invented in Engla Land
Anyway, on behalf of England, I'd like to claim that Standardised Work was first invented here, on English(ish) soil. Our thanks to Harold’s armourer, Alyn Widdle and his early efforts to deal with safety in the 11th century . What a shame Prince Hal, soon to be King Henry V, the leader of that band of lucky few on Saint Crispin’s day hadn’t read the same standard when he first started out fighting. No-one wants a bodkin through the jaw. I’ll spare you the gory details of its extraction, but when will people learn to follow the standard and save themselves from unnecessary pain?
I’ve managed to take a screenshot of the armourer’s Key Step in the 1066 standard (see below). You can see how easy this standard is to follow for both Kings.
So, as we can see, Standardised Work for fighting was clearly invented in England. This is not to be confused with standards of hygiene which some argue were adopted in England with the signing of the Maastricht treaty.
The Americans may have something to say about the invention of Standardised Work, what with Taylor and his scientific management or Gilbreth and his wife, Lillian with their approach to removing waste for efficiency gains.
But no, we got there first. The English have it. Just as we did with Just In Time and flow as demonstrated by Josiah Wedgwood with his transformative factory on the banks of the canal. Controversial, I know, but there we are.
I'm not sure how well used the concept of standards was in the dark satanic mills or, in fact, how Brunel, our great engineer of the first industrial revolution got on with the concept. Very well, I'm sure but, unfortunately, his standards library must have been consumed in the great fire of 1666, approximately 140 odd years before his birth. I think I'm on a sticky wicket so we might move on.
The Advent of Modern Work Instructions
Taylor and Gilbreth try to reinvent Widdle's concept in the US.
Bureau of Training Manpower War Commission in the USA buy the Standardised Work methodology from the armourer’s descendent in Derbyshire to develop Job Instruction for tank and aircraft manufacture before their entry into World War 2. This was a last minute adendum to the Lend Lease Act of March 1941.
Deming uses armourer’s standards methodology in Japan post World War 2. He then espouses quality management techniques heavily based on a manuscript written by Lord Marlborough when held in the Tower of London in the early 1700s (this will have to be covered in another blog for the sake of brevity and to protect my sources)
Japanese automotive uses Widdle's methodology and brings it back to the UK in the late 1980s where it is used in Burnaston, Derby to this day. Burnaston, according to many artisans, is the original birthplace of Harold’s armourer and so we complete the circle.
Lessons from the armourer of 1066
Follow thine own standard, sire!
We spent time building the standard for a reason. We identified the consequences and trained against them. Now we’ve lost a kingdom and will have to conduct all courtly duties in French for the next 300 years.
Be humble, sire! That high horse of yours got us into this. In my humble opinion.
Next week I will be covering the history of Heijunka, an ancient English practice of levelling protected woodlands for making ships to extend the reach of the British empire.
As this is a blog made in jest and is not an academic article I am under no obligation to publish the source material for my conspiracy theories but will happily discuss this with you in person should you sign up for a demo of our software for standards which also includes a free replica of the original armourer’s standard.
The full suite of GENEO Software
GEN-OPS1 - SaaS platform for building and governing brilliant standards. Looking after the full cycle of a standard from cradle to grave and tracking competency.
TEMPO - optimising maintenance and long cycle work
my-CI - a mobile app for leaders to drive Continuous Improvement
On a side note, I asked hotpot AI to generate an image of Saxons fighting. The result is the feature image at the top of the page.