It seems to me that more organizations than ever are talking about 5 S, the widely-adopted Japanese program of simplifying organizing and spiffing up production stations. The term and the techniques now pop up repeatedly in literature encouraging every part of every organization to do the same.
When you think of 5 S, do you have a picture in your head of how nice the shop looks, how clean the warehouse is, the crisp, professional look that visitors to the front – and back! – offices see when they walk in?
If you don’t, it’s likely that your people don’t either. They heard you tell them to straighten up. They sat attentively through your 5 S presentation. They even had fun running loose in someone else’s department with the red tags and red tape you provided. Did they have as much fun when they returned to their own department and had to deal with the red tags left for them by other teams? Did they get it? Did they understand that this is the new way of life? Were you able to demonstrate your own passion during the exercise and the resulting clean up and organization?
A former colleague recently started his new plant on the journey to lean, and after setting up some training sessions and handing red tags and black-and-white tape, saw a flurry of activity. When he walked through the shop, people were indeed cleaning up, marking and labeling key spots in the work cells. By the following week, the activity level dropped to normal. The new black-and-white lines were being employed properly, the red tags were gone and the areas remained clean.
Wondering why the progress had slowed, he approached the closest line and asked. The line leader proudly showed the changes made the previous week and announced they had finished the 5 S “project.”
Oops. To succeed at this kind of transformation, you must find a way to keep everyone engaged until most of your people can internalize the change and make it their own. One person’s passion was not enough by itself.
Here’s what you must be prepared to do to make this kind of dramatic change stick. Keep talking about the change and keep leading the charge. Remind your management team that that there is no hand-off. Others will commit, and you must encourage them to keep showing the new behavior, but you cannot let them pinch-hit for you. Keep broadcasting the message, broadcast every success story. Post signs in areas of significant improvement that identify the OWNER of that area or production line.
Recognize and reinforce the production teams that are moving closer to Sustain. Ask them to invite individuals and teams to visit. Get them trading ideas with each other. You manage by wandering around so encourage them to do the same.
Once you have a critical mass of people understanding that 5 S is “what we do,” the teams will be ready for the next part of your Lean initiative. Successful teams can speak with those still learning to share ideas that lead to success. Peer enthusiasm is even stronger than peer pressure.
Take advantage of it to share your passion and your vision for your organization. Align your team behaviors with your organizational values to achieve the organizational goals. Without such alignment, your efforts will not achieve the full potential you are counting on, despite your personal passion.