It’s Awful When the Person Teaching #Lean Doesn’t Get the Bad 5S Joke

Long-time readers might remember this post of mine from February 2007:

Bad Lean/5S Hits the UK Media

Please check out that post. It’s a classic example of what I shortly thereafter started (in March 2007) calling “L.A.M.E.” or Lean As Misguidedly Explained.

In that post, I shared a picture from the UK news article that typifies “Bad 5s” (and I’ve now added a label to the photo that hopefully makes that clear to anyone who might use the image).

Bad 5s


I’ve used that picture as a punchline in many presentations. That perhaps superficially LOOKS like 5S (tape has been used to mark locations of things)… but look at all of the tape that’s been wasted in this case and similar circumstances.

How in the world does it help to mark where your keyboard goes? It doesn’t. Has a corded keyboard ever gotten lost or gone missing? Would it affect a person’s productivity to move it a bit?

What problem is solved by putting down tape marking the mouse location? None. The tape probably INTERFERES with the use of the mouse, ironically.

This is classic bad 5S… a tool chasing the wrong problem. It’s not helping the organization perform better. In fact, I guarantee you that employees who are antagonized by top-down bullying 5S will perform worse because they’re cheesed off. It’s the type of thing I also blogged about here (the 5S cop) and made a video about.

Don’t be L.A.M.E.

Don’t do bad 5S to people.

Instead, solve problems that really matter to customers, employees, and the organization.

I was watching a recorded webinar the other day from a non-profit that will remain unnamed. It was a webinar about a “Lean Six Sigma” certification class they are going to be teaching (for healthcare).

One slide included the “bad 5S” picture without any commentary (nothing was said about the picture as the presenter talked about what you’ll learn in their class) — I’ve hidden the organization’s name and logo:

teaching bad 5s

If your Lean instructors don’t know the difference between helpful 5S and bad 5S, then….

Run away!!

How did the instructor find the image? I don’t know, but if you do a Google Image search for “5S lean,” that picture shows up as one of the first results without too much scrolling. I wish I had added the “This is Bad 5S” text to the picture long ago.

lean 5s google search

I hope the instructor knows the difference between good 5S and bad 5S. Maybe she was just lazy and did a quick Google search for an image without thinking about it or understanding what she saw.

I hope somebody teaching 5S and Lean for healthcare would have her own examples.

I hope people who want training and education can find experienced people to teach them. Otherwise, I’m afraid we’ll end up with more L.A.M.E. in healthcare, when we need Lean.

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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4 Comments on "It’s Awful When the Person Teaching #Lean Doesn’t Get the Bad 5S Joke"

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  1. Hi Mark

    Age old problem surfaces that we have all seen to often in LEAN, people teaching and trying to do LEAN without applying basic common sense. Labels and marking are only really needed when people share a facility, and even than only for things that do not have a distinct location. If everyone knows where something is supposed to be, marking may be just another waste.

    Office 5S is one area where it gets overdone far too often. As a society, we have gotten to dependent on others establishing order that we fail to apply what should be common sense.

  2. Mark Graban

    As part of my attempts to prevent future cases where that “bad 5S” photo mistakenly gets used as an example of 5S, I offered the photo to Dan Markovitz who is now using it in this post:

  3. Mark Graban

    I had a few offline discussions about this with people who defended the use of tape.

    It sort of went like:

    Them: But that photo shows all 5 of the 5S’s
    Me: Why? What problem is that tape solving?
    Them: Why wouldn’t you want to do 5S?
    Me: Because the point of 5S is to prevent problems or to make problems visible.
    Them: But I was taught you have to do this (in my class / by my “belt” mentor).
    Me: OK, let’s agree to disagree

    It was a variation of the fake discussion in the video (which is based on reality):

  4. Mark Graban

    And I posted these images on Twitter :-)


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