How To Make Streamlining The Office Benefit Its Employees

Mike Girdler

Increased morale and efficiency anyone? Your organization has decided to undertake a 5S initiative. Congratulations, 5S is an incredible continuous improvement tool that has been …

Increased morale and efficiency anyone?

5SYour organization has decided to undertake a 5S initiative. Congratulations, 5S is an incredible continuous improvement tool that has been thoroughly acknowledged to quickly and inexpensively get rid of waste, increase efficiency and productivity. But, what about the organization’s employees? What benefits will 5S efforts have for them?

If this is your first introduction to 5S, check out Tatiana Czuchnowky’s blog for a beginner’s guide to 5S.

Let me preface by saying, I have no quantitative data, and that the following are my opinions based on observation and discussions with colleagues.

Now, let’s take a look at the 5S steps and some of the benefits for employees through the adoption of this organizational initiative.

Step one – Sort. In this step you assess and rid your work area of unused items.

Step two – Straighten. In this step, you design your area to reflect the most optimal and efficient set up – a place for everything and everything in its place.

Let’s consider these first two steps. First, how do you feel when you go into a work area that is a mess? Are you motivated? Positive? Ready to get to work? On the other hand how do you feel when you go into a clean, orderly space? My experience suggests that if your work area is a cluttered mess; the first part of the day is spent sifting through the clutter and disorder to get yourself in to a position where you are actually ready and able, to work. Conversely, when a work space is clean, orderly, and set up properly, you are immediately in a positive mind frame, set to be productive, and ready to get to work. There is no wasted time or effort.

Step three – Shine or Sweep. This step, as it says, is where you shine and sweep your work area to maintain the efforts you undertook in the first two steps.

Let’s stop for a moment, because this is where the continuous improvement magic really starts to happen. Yes, we clean to keep the newly straightened work area orderly, but this step also provides an opportunity to inspect. For example, let’s say part of an employee’s responsibility is the area that houses the printers. At the end of each day he/she notices a pattern of dozens of printed sheets lying around. Someone has printed something, but hasn’t retrieved it. This is waste.

The shine/sweep step of 5S empowers the employee to recognize another continuous improvement opportunity. To bring attention to it, and improve it. Continuing with the example above, the employee could locate the individual, or individuals, that printed and left the materials. Perhaps there is a lack of awareness of the printing, the waste, or a need for some training on how to use the printer. Regardless, the employee can address the situation and remove a waste. An empowered employee feels connected, valued, takes ownership and speaks up, for the betterment of the organization.    

Step four – Standardize. This step focuses on developing standards – checklists, visual markers, etc., so that anything out of the norm is quickly caught.

Quick question, have you ever gone to look for something, a tool, a document, whatever, and found that it wasn’t where it was supposed to be? How much time did you spend looking for it? How frustrating was it and how did it impact on your productivity? When things are standardized, if something is not right, it’s noticeable. Employees benefit from the standardize step because they can focus on their work. They are confident in their ability to deliver because they know the materials, tools, and equipment they need to deliver success will be right where they need them, when they need them.

Step five – Sustain.  This final step is about making sure the changes stick and the philosophy of continuous improvement is leveraged to other areas of the organization. Sustain involves everyone in the organization, and one of the benefits to the entire organization is enhanced communications. Executives and company personnel break down the silos and barriers to communication through working together to make sure 5S initiatives last.  Employees feel comfortable with management and are not inhibited to draw attention to areas for improvement, provide feedback, or to offer new ideas.

The 5S undertaking is a win-win situation for the organization and its employees. For the employees, they benefit from a clean, safe, and orderly workspace. As well, they are more confident and comfortable in their ability to deliver, and enjoy more of an ownership and connection to the organization through their empowerment. For the organization, the benefits are increased efficiency, reduced waste, increased employee morale, and increased productivity.

How can 5S efforts help your organization? Thanks for reading don’t forget to share/tweet/like our blog just underneath this paragraph. And don’t forget, we’re always here to help with your business efficiency needs.

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Michael Girdler is a vice-president, CornerStone Dynamics Inc. His blogs focus on all things project management. Throughout Mike's career, he has invested deeply into projects involving sales, marketing, training and development, continuing education, and communications environments.

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