Lean Thinker Challenge #7

iStock_000026514261XLargeWelcome to another edition of the Lean Thinker Challenge!

The Situation

Your boss, the Senior VP of Operations, has approached you about starting to practice 5S throughout your 350 person manufacturing company.

His reasoning is quite straight forward… he feels disorganization and lack of standardization is directly related to the poor company performance of late.

He also senses employee morale is at an all time low and wonders if a cleaner, more organized, workplace will help.

Your boss has also made it clear that there is far more to lean than 5S… but feels this may be the best way to build some momentum.

The Challenge

Two years ago your company attempted to practice 5S.  All you really remember is that these super intense consultants came in to lead the charge, cheesy 5S banners were hung from the ceilings, and employees were told they could only have 1 personal picture/item on their desk.  In short, it was a disaster and the initiative died a quick, and painful, death.

So, now, even though you feel your boss has good intentions you have no idea how to approach these same employees who, you’re confident, will be skeptical and likely upset about having to do all this “5S stuff” again.

What should you do?


  1. Jiten

    January 27, 2015 - 7:22 am

    For certain challenges in organization, we can reuse the proven methods and techniques that are in place…shared by Quality gurus.. For this specific challenge, it is best suitable to reuse the approach mentioned in a great book ” The Science of Influence” by Kevin Hogan.
    Let me share some excerpt here. Hope this helps the readers.
    Key: If you want to change your own or someone else’s behavior, the first
    thing you can often do is change the environment. If you can control the environment,
    you can typically predict or create a specific behavior.

    It is known how people will behave in church, at the dinner table, at
    the office, and in the hotel. Deviations can occur but behavior is remarkably
    People learn how to behave in all of these environments and then they
    do behave that way. An extroverted individual will be remarkably compliant
    in the quiet atmosphere of the library.The introverted person will sing
    out in church and stand up and cheer at the football game.The behaviors
    are learned and reinforced. People do what they are told, and when they
    don’t we medicate them so they will comply!
    Changing the environment is uniquely powerful in changing behavior.
    There is no greater single influence. Not genetics, not peer pressure.
    Not parenting. The environment stimulates behavior, and changing behavior is
    most easily accomplished in a different environment.

    The environment can be changed to develop different behaviors. The positions
    of chairs, furniture, and decor can be altered, thus changing how much
    people like each other.These alterations also change how (and how much)
    people interact, which will directly impact whether people will like each
    other, be more (or less) anxious, and be more (or less) comfortable.
    The colors of carpeting, furniture, and walls all change the perceptions
    of people in the environment and literally change their behavior.
    An interesting element in changing the environment is that it tends to
    change behavior first, rather than the attitude of the individual.This fact is
    most profoundly noted in many religious institutions, the military of every
    government, large corporations, and some schools.
    When a person is moved from one environment to another, especially
    when one is unfamiliar with the new environment, the brain has to
    change; it enters into a state of flux and typically becomes more suggestible.
    From the standpoint of your self, this factor can help you determine
    whether you should remain in the same environment you are in or intentionally
    change it. From the standpoint of changing the behavior of others,
    this information helps you know whether you should take a person out to
    lunch, to dinner, or on a trip—or meet them at an international destination.
    The further removed from their norm the more likely it is to gain
    compliance in most people.
    The environment has a dramatic impact on whether someone else will
    say “yes” or “no” to you. It’s the very first indicator that a “yes” or “no” is
    coming.The next indicator is equally controllable: your appearance.

  2. Lucas Johnson

    January 27, 2015 - 7:45 am

    I’d get some of the people that killed the last 5s program into a room to address the problem of poor company performance. Define the problem and understand current state, find possible root causes, determine which root cause(s) is/are the actual root cause(s), and solve for that.

    If poor performance is proven to be a direct cause of disorganization (or anything else for that matter), those employees are much more likely to want to be part of the solution.

  3. IgnacioE

    January 27, 2015 - 7:57 am

    In my experience with similar situation the first thing is let’s forget about the name of the tool (5s in this case), which sometimes it becomes the objective to implement the tool instead of attacking the root cause of your problems or the opportunity for improvement. You can name your program whatever it suits better the company and the situation, for example “Mr Clean”.
    The next thing is to communicate (and communicate constantly) the vision of what the company wants to achieve (¿the what?), a safer, efficient, organized and happier work place. Then suggest and show (pilot test) and easy to follow steps (¿the how? with the 5s) that everybody is going to use to define and design their own workplaces where they can feel they can perform the best (the WIIFM catch). It sounds like simple steps but they aren’t, and there is no recipe for this, at the end is the beauty of us in the continuous improvement role that we need to be very creative to help people do their jobs easier and not focusing on implementing tools but rather on solving problems and at the end everything is about people

  4. Tracey Adames

    January 27, 2015 - 8:02 am

    I’d be very open and honest about the past failures. Explaining what went wrong, why you didn’t understand why you were attempting 5S, etc.

    Then, I’d clearly explain the PURPOSE of the new initiative. I’d have specific, measurable, goals that everyone can track.

    Finally, I’d also ask for a volunteer pilot group to help the launch. Early adopters always exist.

  5. Willian

    January 27, 2015 - 9:58 am

    First of all, I would analyse the root cause of the “disaster” two years earlier. Once the failures had been identified, I would propose one (or more) countermeasure (s) to avoid the same inconsistencies during the current implementation process.
    Then I would expose these action plans to the VP, asking his support to solve it (if necessary in case of financial gaps) and to disseminate the strategy to my pairs or senior managers with me. All the leadership must be aligned, so the assertive implementation must start from the top down. Committees with these leaders should occur as needed.
    An external expert should be hired to support and cut the edges of the program, giving a professional point of view for the challenge. This interaction with the consultant must be planned to happen with a defined frequency, higher at the beginning and more distant once the program reaches a good maturity.
    The medium leadership must be well trained as they will be the interface with the shopfloor, the “final customer” of the program and consequently the responsible group for its success.

  6. Greg Hershman

    January 28, 2015 - 1:14 pm

    To me I see that the VP is someone who has read and been told that Lean is needed but he (she) hasn’t experienced it. The VP – or better still, the President – needs to spend time on the floor talking with all the employees. Wander through the various departments, talk with the operators, explain to everyone that the company wants and needs to begin a Lean adventure. This will make the company more successful, make the work of the employees easier, make lifer more fulfilling and help ensure the longevity of the job.

    Lean and all of its subsystems cannot be pushed down to anyone; it is the responsibility of top management. The implementation and actual running of the various components: 5S, the 7 Wastes, SMED, etc. can be managed buy managers and supervisors but until the very top management has impressed upon the entire company the new way the company will run, no effort by lower level managers will have any lasting significance – it will all be a ‘flash in the pan’ and the company will return to its old way of doing things.

  7. Michael Hahn

    January 29, 2015 - 3:11 pm

    This must be a top down culture driven on a daily basis by the VP. It must be a topic in every meeting and discussion regarding the shop floor. Use your existing management tires (org chart
    ) to roll this culture change to the shop floor. Assign ownership and responsibility to every sq inch of the operation and map it. Eliminate any “no man’s land” The Dept manager owns the real estate in his department. Map it. His supervisors own areas in the department. Map it. each employee owns area inside the supervisors area. Map it. Make 5-S part of doing each job. No stop and clean up at the end of the day. Focus on creating home positions for everything and coach the management team and work force on the S’s. Create a score card and audit method for each area including notes on next step, continuous improvement. Sometime the best way to organize a process is to physically move it. So much to say about this topic……

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