Why Clean Up Your Desk? Delight in Disorder Instead (WSJ $$)
What does a clean desk have to do with 5S? It depends. Do you have your own desk or do you share a workspace with others? Can you find any item or piece of information within 20 seconds or does it take forever to find anything?
The article I’ve linked to is about a book called A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder–How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place.
How’s that for a messy and cluttered book title??
One of the arguments the authors make has some merit from a total system perspective:
“And mess can also serve as a valuable time-saver: The sloppy desk liberates the desk owner to focus on more important things. All that time spent straightening piles of paper — or working your way diligently through memos, messages and mailings — could be better used to crunch numbers or to think of a shrewd way of marketing Widget 2.0.”
Granted, we all have limited minutes in the day (and in our lives). We have to prioritize those moments and straightening an office might honestly not be the right thing to be doing right now. A clean desk in a failing business might be like re-arranging desk chairs on the Titanic, eh?
When a guy from Ford emails me about the office 5S program they have, I have to wonder where their priorities are. Do they really think the biggest waste in their business system is messy desks for engineers?
5S is a method for eliminating waste and for making sure problems are apparent (so they can be solved). 5S is not just a “neat freak” exercise. Now, if engineers are having trouble working together and new model launches are being delayed because of messy desks, then maybe you have an argument for office 5S.
Lean isn’t just about 5S. We should do lean for lean’s sake and we shouldn’t do 5S for 5S’s sake.
From what I read in that book review, it hasn’t convinced me that messes are more helpful than they are harmful. Do I have a bit of a messy office at home? Sure. But, my lean project team rooms are organized — because a group of us have to function and be productive together in that space. I can find the papers in stacks in my desk and home — nobody else has to. In our group room, we rely on 5S and organization to make sure we can all be productive, that we always put papers and tools back in the same place.
What do you think of “Office 5S”? Has it been helpful for you? Or just a hassle? Click “comments” to share your experiences.
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