Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize, Sustain.
When discussing lean concepts, “5S” tops the list of the most known along with the likes of “Kaizen,” “Kanban,” “JIT,” and “Poka-Yoke.” Many educational resources are available to learn these concepts, such as the specialized guides available on LEI’s website www.lean.org. However, the vast majority of these guides frequently overlook the key success ingredients that are particularly important for cross-functional projects. And no, it’s not about getting the perfect shade of red when painting lines.
First, obtaining buy-in from all stakeholders is a crucial first step. First-hand experience has taught me the hard way that while most lean practitioners do well with technical details, they tend to flounder in the area of supposedly “common-sense” people skills. To alleviate this shortfall, envision yourself as a Hoshin-Kanri, or “shining compass,” that nudges ships in the right direction as opposed to a “know-it-all authority” who simply shoves self-centered ideas down others’ throats. Doing so could help open your eyes to many invaluable insights that lead to a much more robust project plan.
Keep It Simple Stupid
Second, keeping things simple is very important for project execution. The “KISS” principle we learned in grade school applies in the workplace too! Overly-complicated standard procedures are prone to quickly deteriorate and result in highly unstable processes. Furthermore, this effect expands in cross-functional projects as the number of players involved increases. To this end, visual management tools such as color and sign-based management plans could prove to be quite effective, especially when used in conjuncture with easy-to-understand and accessible one-point-lessons.
Remember the 5th S
Third, remembering the 5th S (SUSTAIN) is vital to ensuring that the proposed benefits will be reaped. Given the inherently dynamic nature of business, anything not actively maintained may quickly fall into disarray. That’s the reason for the 5S project in the first place right? Consequently, we need to be very conscientious of the need to follow through with our project to the “end” and not let up on the gas prematurely. Instead, be very cognizant of the fact that you get what you measure. Use tools such as Failure Modes Effects Analysis (FMEA) to help you hone-in on the key areas of concern and follow-up on them with Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) meetings.
In short, these three tips could help you evade many of the common pitfalls that often plague lean practitioners. First, getting buy-in with all stakeholders will help get the project gain a good running start. Then, keeping things simple will help promote a smooth running track. Last, remembering the often-overlooked 5th S will help propel you across the finish line and beyond. Remember, the fun is in the journey, not the destination. That is the lean way!
Written by Sun Kwok, Lean Logistics Specialist at LeanCor