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Enforcement is the act of compelling someone to follow a standard. Think of enforcement as the strong arm of discipline.

With good discipline, people are inspired to follow rules and meet standards. But, as in all things, there are long tails on the discipline bell curve—some people naturally do the right things (especially engaged employees). Others need a push in that direction now and again. That’s where enforcement comes in.

Generally, enforcement occurs during, or in response to an infraction. It can include stopping a person from breaking a rule, or it can involve reprimands and other sanctions after the fact.

Enforcement in Lean should have a two-part approach. The first is the traditional reminder to get people to follow the standard. Try not to go directly to sanctions—that tends to alienate people and make them disengage (an often overlooked form of waste).

Instead, be creative in how you get people to change their behaviors. Creating a positive continuous improvement culture reduces the need for enforcement of standards—people follow them willingly.

More importantly, though, investigate why the person did not follow the standard. In most cases, that detective work will uncover not only an opportunity for improvement, but more importantly, a chance to increase collaboration between a manager and an employee.

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