An old friend of mine (whose name and company remains confidential) recently saw me reference an old blog post on Facebook. I had posted a link to this old post about Kyocera’s “Lean Office” initiative that focused on neatness and, among other things, said employees could not hang sweaters on the back of their office chairs.
Being a “5S cop” and telling people what to do with their office space doesn’t seem to have any real benefit to customers, so I question if it should really be called Lean. God forbid that somebody decorate their cubicle wall a bit (as pictured at left).
The Kyocera efforts still seem more like what I have dubbed “L.A.M.E.,” or Lean As Misguidedly Executed. My friend’s story is pretty bad, as well.
She writes (and allows me to share):
A good portion of our office facility was recently made-over ala Kyocera-style (fortunately not where I sit!) and the designers took away everyone’s wastebaskets (along with personal effects, assigned work stations, and letting people sit in chairs they find comfortable…all chairs have to match).
Anyway, wastebaskets are tacky and uncool and hold unsightly trash which is clutter and not what [the company] stands for because we’re all 5S and besides, it’s the digital age and all offices are supposed to be paperless, right?
HR was on hand when all these changes were announced, and a friend asked what she’s supposed to do with all her used Kleenex because she goes through about half a box a day (she has crazy seasonal allergies).
The HR rep snapped, “You’re supposed to just stay home when you are sick, and that will solve your tissue problem.”
My friend pointed out she’s not sick, just allergic, and got told that maybe she should get shots or find a better pill or something.
So, instead of throwing her snotty tissue in a wastebasket like normal, she keeps a spare paper tray on her desk to pile her used tissue in and then empties the tray in the hidden communal bin half a building away at the end of the day. 5S silliness!!!
Lean is supposed to make things better for customers (you know, like quality, on-time delivery and cost). It’s also supposed to ensure the company’s long-term success by creating a safe workplace full of highly engaged employees who participates in continuous improvement activities (as we wrote about in Healthcare Kaizen). 5S *can* meet all of these goals and I’ve help lead 5S improvement teams in healthcare settings – with benefits to patients, staff, and the organization.
What my friend describes sounds like a misguided top-down directive that comes from somebody who likely doesn’t have to live by similar rules. And, it sounds like they don’t have a very understanding HR rep, either.
5S silliness like this gives 5S and Lean a bad name. If people are being FORCED to follow rules instead of choosing to follow them because the rules are good for patients (or customers) or staff and the organization itself. 5S isn’t about neatness and tidiness – it’s about being more effective. I don’t see how a pile of used tissues on somebody’s desk (instead of a trash can) helps one bit. Is the woman who is mad about this situation likely to be highly engaged and productive?
About LeanBlog.org: Mark Graban is a consultant, author, and speaker in the “lean healthcare” methodology. Mark is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. Mark is also the VP of Customer Success for the technology company KaiNexus. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.