5S in the Office
One of the first tools everyone seems to jump to is 5S. Lets implement 5S to start our lean journey, whether that is the right answer for them or not. On the manufacturing floor, 5S is more straight forward. Employees may not like it at first but it 5S has an easier time getting accept on the manufacturing floor.
The flip side is in the office. 5S is very applicable in the office but harder to apply appropriately. I can’t count how many times I have heard, “You aren’t taking my pictures away from me.” or “It is stupid to label my phone and stapler. I know where they are and where they go.” Who am I to argue? I totally agree and would feel the same way.
When I stopped to think about it, people felt this way because of the improper understanding and/or execution of 5S in the office. Most likely someone came in and dictated how they were going to clean up their area and label everything and they would be graded on it.
That is not the intent of 5S. It is to quickly surface problems so they can be recognized and addressed.
So when and how does someone apply 5S to the office appropriately? The first answer is when it is a shared space. If someone else will have to use the same area or desk to do the same or similar work, then this is a place that 5S can help. Just like the manufacturing floor someone can come in and spend too much time re-arranging the desk/area for their work or spend to much time looking for something that is out of place. Unlike your own personal desk that no one else will use. If no one else will use it , then why label, because you know where everything is. Even “messy” people have a system so leave it be.
The how should address work the work that will be done by shared parties. This work is what needs to have 5S applied to it. Not work they are not sharing.
A good that I visited recently did a great job of applying 5S to the office. The work was processing layouts through a computer system. People had their own desk, but could have to share it with others. So if Bob left on vacation, Jane would come to his desk to do that work, because no matter what the layouts had to be processed that day. So they standardized the color of the folders for “To Be Done”, “In Process”, and “Completed”. They standardized what drawer the folder went into when completed and how the work area was laid out for the work. The work area was the computer and the things directly around it to get the job done. They also standardized where their visual signal for needing the next job was on the desk so no one had to search for it. The rest of the area was for Bob to personalize with his pictures, calendars, and what not. It did not interfere with the work that was needed to be done.
The group become more efficient and standardized without losing any personalization. Because of this, for 2 years this worked very well and there was ownership. The only reason it isn’t around now is because of new technology that eliminated that work.
The challenge is to know when and how to use 5S, especially in the office.
Added Note: Interesting enough, I wrote this last Thursday before Mark Graban published his post on 5S. This is great timing. Here is a link to his post and why office 5S can go so wrong.