5S. Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, Shitsuke
I reckon 5S is a great idea for mechanics' workshops, construction offices, any workspaces where there's a lot of tools, a lot of paper, a lot of mess. For an organised office that houses a high-performing team of electronic paper shufflers, it's a massive WOFTAM.*
So what is this craziness called 5S? Wikipedia has a decent definition, and all the other websites are trying to sell you their expertise in implementing it. Stick with Wikipedia in this instance.
It's an organisational management tool designed to improve productivity via obsessive attention to where stuff goes and how clean it is. Picture the pegboard in Richie Cunningham's father's garage: scungy white with black outlines drawn around all of the tools so that after being used, they can be returned to exactly the right place. It's that sort of organised thinking, backed up with disciplined adherence to detail, times a gazillion.
If you're a Lean practitioner, this is the housekeeping stuff. If you think Lean Housekeeping is about losing weight by vacuuming and dusting, you're wrong, but please do try it, preferably at my house.
Lean and 5S are methods of working with a focus on improving the way you do things. The company I work for is starting a transformational journey to business excellence through process improvement, and as such, every single person and workspace in the business is being jammed through the workplace 5S extruder. The CEO has done it, the production and despatch teams are doing it, and I've done it. Sort of. That's another story.
Anyway, I 5S'd my workspace, dusted and shined the leaves of the plant that I inherited, and stood ready for inspection. Victory was mine - I had passed! Most of the people in my area passed. My boss, a brilliantly messy mad-scientist type, cleaned his area by shoving everything on his desk into a box which he then shoved under his desk. The box is marked recycling. The box lies.
I took a shorter route to 5S compliance, as my desk was relatively tidy, if somewhat dusty: I filed until I got jack of it, and everything else went through the shredder. Yes, I have shredded some documents I wish I'd kept. Damn you, 5S!
Other 5S compliance techniques in our offices include body blocking the guy with the hand trolley so he can't take away your filing cabinets. Files should be archived off-site, or filed in a central compactus...which we used to have, until it was converted to provide additional office space.
If the hand-trolley soldiers manage to overpower you and get your filing cabinets, you might have to jam all of your important hard copy documents into your desk drawers with the other stuff you aren't allowed to leave in plain sight: stationary supplies, last year's diary, a cache of painkillers, antacids, band aids and tampons, the funny mug your boyfriend gave you, a couple of tins of soup, a manicure kit, a broken mouse, three mousepads and emergency chocolate.
And no, it's not an efficient use of my time or the company's limited server capacity for me to scan every document that comes to me as a tree-version, and save it.
But don't think the pain has stopped just because I complied. Today, I saw what the 5S team has done to the staff kitchen. Like all staff kitchens, it's imperfect and inadequate. It has no dishwasher or stove, but I've seen far worse. Still, obsession is...er...obsessive.
They've labelled stuff. The microwaves, the sandwich press, the cupboards (cups, glasses, cleaning products), the drawers (cutlery, tea towels), the cupboard where you're not permitted to store cereal in cardboard boxes because it attracts rodents. The toaster, or more specifically, the position on the wall under which the toaster is to be stored when not in use. There are scary mystery cupboards too: these were not labelled. I don't know whether to sneak a peak, or assume that as they don't carry visible labels I'm just not meant to know.
But back to the cereal-eating rodents: why is this an issue? We have fat possums that live in the ceiling, occasionally breaking through to run around our clean, 5S'd desks in the middle of the night, leaving plenty of another S for us to clean up in the morning. And snakes: brown snakes and carpet pythons that find their way through cracks in the ceilings that the possums broke, seeking the warmth of our computer screens and hot water heaters.
I've had it with this 5S business. Please leave your suggestions for how to mess with the minds of the 5S team below. Thank you.
* WOFTAM: Waste of F*cking Time And Money