Applying LEAN Thinking to Everyday Problems - Part 3: The 5S

In my previous blogs I was explaining the concept of waste and the SPS (simple problem solving) tool. In this blog I want to illustrate the 5S – a structured approach to organise your workplace (processes, information or… anything really that needs organising!) by developing a culture of discipline or order.

Moving house and the 5S:

  1. Sort: Since the beginning of the year, I have been decluttering – going through our home room by room deciding what to take and what not to take. What to ship and what to personally take on the plane. What to sell, what to throw out and what to donate. It’s incredible really how much “stuff” one accumulates…
  2. Set in order: For all the household effects that will come with us, I have been trying to keep related items together in one place (rather than finding bits of tools / toys / crockery…. in every cupboard in the house for example).
  3. Shine: Making sure things are in good order and look good. We will be renting our home out so I have engaged with our plumber, electrician, handyman, painter / decorator, window cleaner, carpet cleaner – you name it! – to get everything ready.
  4. Standardise: Introduce sorting systems (not easy with two under 5 year olds in the house), label things, make it easy to understand what goes where. You could for example put a picture of what goes in the box on the box (shoes, toys, ….) – easy to follow no matter what age you are J
  5. Sustain: This is the most important part of it all, once you have completed all the pre-work. Make sure everything stays in order! Don’t wait until you move house again to organise your home. Donate staff you no longer need – regularly. Fix what’s broken when it’s broken. Shred paper you no longer need. (My favourite example that I can think of here however is work related: Everyone who has ever had to clean up master data, will know how painful it is – but what’s the point if there are no processes in place to keep it clean – it won’t last long!)

So next time you despair because you can’t find that piece of paper you know is hiding somewhere on / in / under your desk, think about the 5S and try it out – you will love your new tidy working environment, waste less time in looking for things, increase safety standards and productivity – your employer will love it too!

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