I talked with a guy yesterday about 5S and how well it would work at his office. I asked him what the problem was, and he said, “Oh, you know, it’s messy and I want people to be tidier.”
I didn’t laugh or anything, but I let him know that 5S, under the larger lean umbrella, is about improving things, reducing waste, and solving problems. 5S, specifically, isn’t about tidying the office. It’s a bit more complex than that. Brooms and trashcans are about tidying the office.
This reminded me of an article I read on the Superfactory website. Titled “Watch Out for the Toolheads,” author John Seddon tackles the enormous task of defining some of the more prominent tools in lean. Actually, it was one of the longest free articles out there on the subject, and I have yet to see a more comprehensive, example-rich blog post since about lean.
In the article, Seddon explains that, with the development of the Toyota Production System, and its subsequent labeling of “lean,” many people have equated this complex system with the tools that have evolved as part of the total system.
Like the gentleman with whom I spoke on the phone, Seddon warns not to get caught up as much on having the tools solve the problem, rather than using lean as a problem-solving though process and implementation to success and improvement.
Before this post gets too long, I suggest you read the original post by Seddon.