Continuous Improvement

Organize Your Office with 5S

February 7, 2012

When was the last time you saw your desktop?  If your answer is, “Hmm…I don’t really remember,” do you realize how much time and energy you’re wasting just looking for stuff?  I’m guessing that you already know you’re wasting time.  Or maybe you’re so embarrassed by your messy office that you don’t even let clients see it.  You end up meeting with clients in a conference room.  You’d like to get your office cleaned up, but you have no idea where to start.

Let me suggest a concept called: 5S.  5S is an organizational tool born out of the Toyota production system called: Lean.  What is Lean?

The core idea of Lean is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. Simply put, Lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources. A Lean organization understands customer value and focuses its key processes to continuously increase it.
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The basic idea behind 5S is that a messy office is full of waste.  Not only the waste you can see, i.e. the mess – but the time wasted in looking for the right file, your phone, eye glasses.  You get the idea.  (Caveat:  Lean tools, like 5S, are designed to work together to create a synergistic whole.  Ideally, they should not be implemented individually, but rather as a part of an entire Lean organization. That being said, 5S is something you can implement today, with the understanding that your goal is to create a more effective and efficient office as a whole.)

The 5S System

Sort: Step one is to gather all your stuff into groups:  Files, letters, sticky notes, pens, legal pads, paper clips, etc.

Straighten: Here’s where my mom’s old saying, “A place for everything and everything in its place,” comes to mind.  Organize your office so that everything has a spot.  For example, your pens are always in a certain spot, your legal pads are in a certain spot, your sticky notes are always in a certain spot.  My guess is you already do this with two items in your office: your inbox and your outbox.  They are in the same spot on your desk that they have always been.  Imagine how frustrating it would be if they moved around and you never knew where they were on a given day.

Shine: Now that you’ve sorted and straightened it’s time to clean things up. Get out the Swiffer and polish and clean your office.  Take the time to do this.  You will feel great when you’re done, and your staff will wonder what’s come over you.  Once you’ve set the example, you can plan a 5S day for the whole office.  Make it a party.  Bring in pizza and make it fun:  The first person to 5S their space and keep it that way for a week, two weeks, a month, gets a gift card to their favorite restaurant!

Standardize: Standardization in a manufacturing setting (i.e. a Toyota plant) is about creating an environment in which, for example, workers don’t waste time looking for tools.  In your office it means developing a consistently organized office – for  you and your staff.

Sustain: Finally, you’ve got to create a system to maintain the order you’ve created.  In other words, you’ve got to make it a habit.  Spend just five minutes at the end of each day making sure everything is where it’s supposed to be.  Do this every day for a few weeks and it will become automatic.  You won’t be able to leave your office until you’ve tidied it up.

Now that we’ve looked at how you can use 5S to clean up your physical space, next time we’ll focus on how to apply 5S to your other desktop . . . your computer and all the information you have to manage in your firm.

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