In modern society there are many promises of something in “only 20 minutes per day” whether it is flat abdominals, riches or perfect happiness. In fact what many people miss is that it is “20 minutes per day FOREVER” that guarantees success. The same is true for sustaining lean culture as demonstrated by a neat, safe, organized and clean workplace evidenced by what we call 5S. The habit of removing unnecessary items from our actual or virtual work space, putting everything back in its place after use and generally sustaining this condition is a daily challenge that should be familiar to all lean thinkers.
I spent a couple of hours doing 5S on my laptop today. After a few weeks of travel, many documents created and files downloaded for review or revision, my desktop can get cluttered and need a bit of work. The image above is the result of today’s desktop 5S activity. It may still look a bit busy but many files, folders and shortcuts were sorted out, deleted or put in their correct place.
The arrangement of folders was set in order according to a system I have, with priority projects bring in the top left section, training materials-related folders to the right of that, sales related folders to the left of that, and Gemba branch-related folders to the top right section. The lower left is related to writing, the lower middle are a few dashboards and the lower right are consulting project and travel related folders. These 40+ files and folders may feel like a few too many, but as they take up no physical space and allow me to quickly retrieve nearly any file I need at any time, this system seems to work.
I wouldn’t dare show you what it looked like last week, after weeks of gathering clutter. This raises the question of how we can maintain good condition of 5S, whether it be in an office, factory or the electronic desktop? Many companies have people do 5S as a daily clean up exercise with 10 minutes at the start and/or end of each day dedicated to cleaning. This is the classic “success in 20 minutes per day”. This approach is good so long as cleaning does not become mindless and automatic. Cleaning should be a thoughtful process, asking “why am I having to clean or organize this?” so that it leads to root cause corrective action.
The ideal way to maintain 5S is “clean as you go” where the natural placement of goods, tools and materials is the correct point of use and unnecessary items have no place to go, immediately and visually standing out as being in the wrong location. Practically speaking, this doesn’t work as not all of us clean as we go. Should we dedicate 20 minutes per day cleaning or not?
In a 5 day week of 20 minutes per day, we are investing 100 minutes per week in cleaning per person. These numbers are certain to raise any watchful financial controller’s eyebrows. There is nothing in fact wrong with this time investment in itself. The productivity lost by having people work for days or even weeks in a cluttered work environment is far more than 20 minutes per day. If 10 minutes at the start and end of shift is too disruptive, 2 minutes or 3 minutes per hour, or 5 or 6 minutes every 2 hour after a break may be a good approach.
I sure need to find a better way to keep my desktop free of clutter in 2010. Don’t even get me started on the contents of those 40+ folders. How do you manage to de-clutter and sustain 5S in your personal work space?