Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Compliance and Change

There's an article promoted by a leading trade magazine that says a simple technique like 5S has a life of less than a year. 5S is usually the first tool in the Lean arsenal that gets applied. In one iteration, 5S stands for Shine, Straighten (Organize), Sort, Standardize and Sustain. (Sometimes it includes more S's like Safety, Security and Satisfaction.) Most of this tool is common sense. It comes from the old adage: "a place for everything and everything in its place." Look in any drawer or tool box and you'll find multiples of the same tool creating part of the clutter. Some things won't be well maintained. Unnecessary objects will be found also.

So why doesn't this tool as part of a program stick? Jamie Flinchbaugh of the Lean Learning Center suggests 6 action steps to improve this. Most of it deals with compliance and accountability methods. Only one deals with the heart, and his take is weak on that. We know that when we can engage the head and the heart, we will increase buy-in and ownership. Without engaging the head and heart, we'll spend more and more on compliance efforts. Hospitals have done that in order to assure themselves of higher compliance with hand sanitation efforts--and it's still a struggle even though everyone knows it's necessary. If we engage the head and heart, we won't need a program. People will comply because they believe in the tool and see the benefits.

Of course, compliance won't be perfect. We are human after all. However, the efforts will be sustained past the first anniversary of initiating some effort.

We need to talk about some of the stories that successful 5S implementations have. I know one company reduced supply expenses when they implemented 5S because they uncovered 3 months or more of excess supplies squirreled away in desks and work stations. I know a person who was embarrassed that he had stashed 6 of the same tool while others wasted time searching for one of those tools. I know people who were nearly giddy when they went into another work area and were immediately productive. They didn't have to spend 30 minutes getting oriented to where they "might" find the forms, equipment, tools and materials that they needed. They were effective substitutes in the new area. And they didn't have to bring their own "stuff" which they accidentally might leave behind.

And I know people who nearly caused a disaster because they couldn't find the right materials for an aircraft and grabbed some similar but inappropriate materials. The operator was greatly relieved that we listened to the near disaster and took steps to re-organize and more clearly label the materials.

Not only do we educate people about the purpose of techniques like 5S and other Lean tools, but we need to describe how they're going to feel. They might think they're going to feel like robots with no choice where they put their pile of work activity. Instead they'll feel empowered by not being distracted with the little, unproductive activities and more focused on improving the processes and meeting customer needs better, faster and more robustly.

 (Years ago, it was reported that the number one return to hardware stores were tape measures. Now it's not likely they were defective. It's more likely people bought one because they couldn't find one and then found the "other 3 or so" when they put the new one away.)

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