One of the many stories that circulate about Toyota encompasses, in my view, what Lean is all about.
Actually, more than a story, is a saying by one of its executives: "the workers in the company have two obligations. One is following the standard work. The other is improving it".
Standard work is not a stiff grid where to bury your intelligence and heart. On the contrary. What the 'grid' takes care of is all that stuff that gets in the way of your creative, best work. You remove one obstacle here, other there, and one day you have accumulated hours, days, years of solving problems into a little job helper. And it looks so simple and easy to follow only because you've taken out all those 13,598 things that didn't work. One at a time.
Sometimes, when I have a standard list of a process stabilized, that's accumulated that kind of wisdom for some months, as I use it I feel like there's a "warm hand" that is helping me do the work. I guess it's the so-called respect for people, which I'm exerting on myself. You take care of the process, and there's a tipping point where the process starts to take care of you in incredible ways. (The other day I actually measured how long it takes me from the moment I sit at the computer, to actually being doing value creating work, sound being created or modified, and it was a minute and a half. Plenty of improvement yet to do, the road never ends, but it's a great great improvement already from what I used to have).
Different kinds of work will require different kind of standard instructions, so you also develop creativity and a intuition about what to use where. I don't see it as a burden but as yet another field for personal expression (although it does require some discipline sometimes, to stop what you're doing, to face the problem and solve it on the spot, or at least leave a note to yourself) .
As an example, to get what I call the 'sonic chain' right every time, I need a detailed list of which cable goes where, which mixer parameters for each instrument... On the contrary, for performance, anything more than a text file with a few lines (like "double chorus at the doo-wap", or "semitones after the shy part", which instantly make sense to me) would be overkill.
That leads to another whole can of worms: what to standardize? We don't want to cripple creativity; the acid test is easy: the aids are good as long as they help us get quick to the fun part. But there is an element of creativity, of uniqueness in each piece of music, that cannot be suffocated. That's why, also, it's perfectly normal if with some songs we have to leave the standard altogether; It's like the painted lines on the road, they are intended for guidance and peace of mind, and 99.99% of the time are great for that, but if a deer crosses on your way you'll obviously forget about them instantly :)
A common mistake I've often made is trying to standardize too soon when I create a new process. Sometimes you just have to do the thing 'the old way' first,i.e. getting yourself through it with blood, sweat and tears, just to get a feel of the whole thing, what it looks like. Next time maybe you take a couple notes. A few times more and you can see patterns forming (damn, I always forget I have to lower volume in this part and fry my brains). Then a few reminders become blatantly useful.
Another factor of variation: follow the list as you do the task, or read it beforehand as a reminder and consider yourself trained? Again it depends.
Also, there is a different degree of granularity that is the ideal, a different tool from each job (Granularity=5: "change the guitar's string". Granularity=1: "get the packet of the strings and find the one you just broke"... etc)
So as you can see, nothing to stifle creativity here. On the contrary.