By Jon Miller | Post Date: October 27, 2008 5:25 PM | Comments: 5
Cheers jeersfrom across the internets as the Wall Street Journal gives prime time coverage to our beloved lean management principles sort, straighten, sweep, standardize and sustain, otherwise known as 5S. Kyocera's North American headquarters is going for "perfect 5S" according to the Wall Street Journal article Neatness Counts in the 5S Club. Today's article comes with a video on their office 5S effort titled "Cluttered Cubicles Go Lean With 5S Rules." Click the triangle inside the circle on the lower left to play.
Here is the Youtube link to this video if the above link does not work for some reason.
Is this too much 5S? Clearly the people in this video are uncomfortable and not overly excited to be demonstrating their "perfect 5S". The tone of the article is at best tolerant of the advanced degree to which Kyocera is taking their 5S effort by enforcing the standards and removing things that don't belong in the workplace. The most common argument against this sort of office 5S is that it "depersonalizes" the workplace. But doesn't this miss the point? Where is the "I" in team? Why do we assume that personalization means humanization? How many cubicles are decked with not just photos of sports teams but of family, their customers and team members in the workplace? If "personalization" supports the purpose of the team as a whole rather than just individuals, then it does not create misalignment and is not waste. When it's just "me" then it may do so.
Is it going too far to make a place for everything, label it clearly and ask that things be put back where they belong after use? Apparently to some people, although the logic of why this is escapes me. I suppose there is something inherently different about factory work that just demands that 5S be maintained at a much higher level than in a traditional knowledge work environment such as a hospital, bank or your average white collar function of a manufacturer.
Is it too little 5S? It certainly isn't perfect yet. At one point when an hole punch is removed from it's location, all that remains is an outline of the object - ridiculously insufficient to identify what was there. More than a footprint we need a photograph and even the serial number of that very item to be located within that outline. Kyocera should have waited until their 5S was less of a work-in-process and even more "perfect" before showing the world. As a result, they made their office 5S look like "show lean" and not a serious effort.
Is it disrespectful to people to ask them to keep it neat and organized for other people? Either by choice of the WSJ journalist or by the design of Kyocera's 5S program it appears that people don't make the connection from 5S to making waste visible to removing waste to improving safety and quality. The purpose of removing clutter is to improve the performance of the team. If the purpose is mistaken, then it is too little 5S, not too much. Let's not confuse activity (clearing clutter) with meaningful work (designing effective workplace processes).
Here's is a lean rule of thumb worth noting: when faced with a choice between doing something halfway and calling it good or pursuing perfection even if it means making some people unhappy, pursue perfection.
You're going to make people unhappy either way.Comments are moderated to filter spam and inappropriate content. There may be a delay before your comment is published.