Different Approach, Different Result

In this month’s column I compare the results of two companies that set out to improve workplace organization. Although the two companies began in a similar manner, their efforts followed distinctly different paths and yielded very different results.

Columns From: 9/1/2007 Modern Machine Shop,

In this month’s column I compare the results of two companies that set out to improve workplace organization. Although the two companies began in a similar manner, their efforts followed distinctly different paths and yielded very different results.

Forward Co., Inc. began its organization effort with 5S technique training (sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain) for workplace organization and standardization.

Following the training, Forward Co. selected an area to pilot the program. A small group of employees spent three days sorting items that were not needed; creating lines, labels and signs to identify locations for the things that were needed; and developing a cleaning schedule showing who was responsible for cleaning, what was to be cleaned and when. Next, the team agreed on a series of workplace standards applicable to all who worked in the area. One of the standards was a daily 10-minute cleanup to be performed at the end of each shift. Another standard established a designated location for staging material needed for upcoming jobs. Everyone committed to meeting these workplace organization standards. A questionnaire checklist was developed that would objectively measure the effectiveness of the workplace organization. Area employees agreed to complete this checklist every week and post the results in a visible location for review. It was also agreed that a fixed amount of time would be set aside once a month to allow for corrective action on recurring problems that were noted on the checklist.

One year later, Forward Company’s pilot workplace is well organized and the 5S program has been put into effect in other departments in the company.

Stayput Corp. started its program in much the same way as Forward Co. After investing time in 5S training, employees selected an area for the organization pilot program. Unnecessary items were sorted out and locations were established for storage of the items needed in the area. The area was thoroughly cleaned and sufficient cleaning supplies were made available to keep the area clean. Organization standards were developed and the employees even planned a periodic audit of the workplace. Everyone seemed to buy into the program and improved organization seemed achievable.

Unfortunately for Stayput Corp., the activities completed during its three-day 5S event were the first and the last to be completed with regard to workplace organization. One year later, the 5S program is just a memory and workplace organization has not improved. Many employees wonder whatever happened to the program.

Why did these two companies have such different results after applying the same workplace organization program?

Forward Co. insisted that the workplace organization checklist be completed and posted every week. A schedule was made showing who was to complete the checklist for a particular week. Managers showed interest in the scores and would inquire if the checklist was not up-to-date. The company also supported the 10-minute end-of-shift cleanup that the area workers felt was important and allowed time once a month to address the organization problems discovered by the area workers. The company showed visible interest and periodically thanked the employees for keeping the area clean and organized. Forward Co. followed through on its commitment.

Stayput Corp. did not encourage area workers to take ownership of the area and allowed non-compliance to agreed-upon workplace organization standards to go unchallenged. Managers did not check whether the area audits were being performed and eventually, everyone forgot about the time and effort expended to get the area organized in the first place. Perhaps the biggest problem was that the company did not believe an organization effort would be successful in the long term, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.

If your company is considering implementing a organization effort follow the approach of “Forward Co. Inc.” while learning from the mistakes of “Stayput Corp.”

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