Good morning.

This month we’ve been talking about ways that you can maintain a sense of control while actually letting go and allowing your workforce to make decisions and make changes in the workplace.

Another system that is fundamental to your ability to do this is the way you’ve organized the workplace.

There is a system in lean we refer to as 5S.  It gets that name from the 5 required stages of workplace organization.  Those 5 words are Japanese.  One of the earlier descriptions of this system translated the 5 S’s as Organization, Orderliness, Cleaning up, Cleanliness, and Discipline – as in sticking to it every day.

You might not recognize this right away, but there are 2 tasks – specific activities we’re supposed to perform – in Organization and Cleaning up.  There are 2 Habits the system is trying to cultivate – Orderliness and Cleanliness.  If we can build these 2 habits in the workforce, we’ll be able to keep things organized forever, so…Discipline.

But we westerners like our acronyms to make sense and since Organization, Orderliness, Cleaning up, Cleanliness, and Discipline don’t start with the letter S, how can we possibly call this technique 5S – so someone retranslated a little and we ended up with Sort, Set in order, Sweep, Standardized, and Sustain.

Don’t get me wrong, these 5 tasks will help you get your stuff organized, but it sort of promotes 5S as a housekeeping chore instead of a system that builds a more disciplined and effective learning culture.

I offered a slight change in my Leadersights book.  I wanted to focus on 4S instead of 5S because that’s what I learned back when I spent all that time observing Toyota.  I also looked at how most people approach cleaning out their garage. 

First we pull all the junk out and look at it to decide if we should keep it or not.  So we Sort the necessary from the unnecessary.  Then we usually sweep everything out and wipe everything down, so Sweep would be the logical next step.  Then we put everything we choose to keep back in the garage and try to organize it so we can find things when we need them, so we Set in Order.

The Set step implies making this set up the standard so I don’t think we actually need a separate step called standardize.  What we do need is perpetual energy to always make the layout and organization better.  So my 4th S is Simplify. 

It might sound crazy, but I do this with my coffee making every morning.  I think, how can i shave a second off this process so I can get my damn coffee quicker?!

4S – SORT, SWEEP, SET, SIMPLIFY.  Still task heavy but hopefully easier to do. 

And since we’re talking about Coffee, join me at noon today for a lean coffee.  I’ll past the link in the comments.  We usually have some good conversations and we’re especially tuned in when someone brings a problem they actually need help with.

Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.