Building Lean Momentum with Workplace Organization

Broken Windows, Mickey, and 5S.  What do they have in common? 

No one messes with Mickey Mouse.  The Happiest Place on Earth is always clean and orderly – a true fairytale you can actually walk around in.   Why is that?  Disneyland makes it easy to not litter – handsome garbage cans are plentiful.  The park is so clean that even those who would throw trash out of their car windows would shudder to think of littering at Disneyland.  In the event someone disrespects anything it is immediately corrected by a “cast member” – maybe even Mickey himself.  It might be said Disneyland has a 5S culture.

Wilson and Kelling’s widely cited Broken Window Theory postulates that if you fix problems such as vandalism when they are small, they will not spread:

“Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.”

Repair the broken windows within a short time (one week or less) and the tendency is that vandals are much less likely to break more windows or do further damage. Clean up the sidewalk every day, and the tendency is for litter not to accumulate (or for the rate of littering to be much less). Problems do not escalate, and respectable residents remain in the neighborhood.

The New York City Transit Authority applied the theory to clean up the subways.  Graffiti was cleaned immediately, and zero tolerance was given to petty crimes such as fare evasion, panhandling, and public urination.  The effort was later joined by the entire city of New York.  By focusing on petty crime they rates of both petty and serious crime fell suddenly and significantly, and continued to drop for the following ten years.  Just as Disneyland created a 5S culture for Mickey’s house, NYC has created a more positive environment that actually feeds on itself.  The cleaner something is, the easier it is to keep clean.  That is momentum.

Many Workplace Organization (5S) programs are good at the initial SORT, SET IN ORDER, SANITIZE, and STANDARDIZE but stall at the SUSTAIN.  Without SUSTAIN, there is no momentum, and 5S programs fall into the pile of “been there, tried that” fad programs that can drag down any of your change efforts.  As I wrote in The Four Drivers of Lean Workplace Organization is the foundation of your other lean efforts.  Erosion of the foundation and the entire effort crumbles.  Who would want to visit Disneyland if it was dirty? The magic would be gone. How can any city attract visitors if their crime rate is soaring?

The key to sustaining your lean momentum is in a Workplace Organization system based on team competition and with an independent staff of auditors.  Several times each week an independent audit committee should do a walkthrough of all the areas and rate each of the 5S (or 6S if you include Safety, which I suggest) and rate each area on a 1-5 scale.  Take digital photos of grave errors, such as unlabeled bottles or blocked exits, for coaching purposes.  Each month the scores are tabulated and scores posted.  Lots of recognition, photos with the boss, and simple, low cost prizes (such as a pizza lunch) are awarded to the top team(s).  At the same time the bottom two teams get a visit from the boss and the Lean Team to see how they can help improve the areas.  It’s all about improving and helping each team be successful with their efforts.  Only if the team does not take interest or respond should there be any negative repercussions.

We can all agree that some environments by their very nature are more chaotic or inherently dirty.  Those teams will be tempted to moan and groan at being scored side by side with the “easier” departments.  Don’t pay any attention – include them all.  I became a believer when the toughest area of all in a plant I was running – Fiberglass Tooling – won the 6S competition 10 out of 12 months!

Get the foundation right, and you can build a house.  Get the Workplace Organization right, and you can build a Lean Culture.

Copyright 2012 Paul Yandell.  All Rights Reserved.

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3 thoughts on “Building Lean Momentum with Workplace Organization

  1. Pingback: Transforming Lean Thru Middle Managers | paulyandell

  2. Pingback: The Culture Beast | paulyandell

  3. Pingback: Change Management | paulyandell

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