Sunday, April 08, 2007

Designers beware: 5S Phase 1, Seiri (Select)

Welcome back to my series on 5S, the methodology to improve organization, order and cleanliness.

As I said in my previous post, this methodology can be applied to many aspects of life, as you will surely see in the upcoming weeks, as I unfold the steps to use it in a design studio environment. I won’t go into a lot of depth, since the implementation does depend on your own objectives and the different places of the organization you want to tackle.

So here’s one way of implementing the methodology, CaroAyerbe style:

Let’s say you have a design studio or you work in an in-house design department. Let’s say you want to apply 5S there. The coverage would probably be the design offices and the common areas like the meeting room, the library and/or the supplies room.

Just to show you that I practice what I preach, this here was my actual desk a few years ago, yup, that's my elbow right there...

Before starting:

- Explain the methodology to your people about get a consensus on whether or not they think it’s a good idea to implement it. They always think it's good. (Come on, who doesn’t want to be more productive, right?).
- Designate a team of facilitators which will be in charge of guiding the process.
- One facilitator per area is a good idea.
- Train the facilitators.

Phase one, Select

Basically in this phase you decide what goes and what stays, that’s the main purpose. Why select? Because…

- Work places are filled with clutter.
- The usable space is used by stuff that offers no advantages.
- Closets and shelves contain things that are never used.
- It’s difficult to find the necessary utensils.
- There’s too much stock of stuff you don’t actually need.

What you will need:

- A digital camera. Humans are visual creatures, so one of the best ways to record and evaluate results is to take pictures. The before and after. Ideally, each facilitator has a camera.
- A huge plastic bag, for trash.
- Little red cards. Prepare these beforehand, it can be a little business-card-size piece of paper, with a little ribbon to attach them to objects.

Step 1: Prepare yourself.
Get a plastic bag and red cards.

Step 2: Gather.
Bring all your stuff to one place, near the area you’re working on. Take everything and put it on a big surface… on top of the desk or on the floor. Now, everything means everything. Absolutely every item needs to be accounted for.
It’s necessary to check behind closets, on top of closets, on the walls, places that are not well lit, behind the desk, inside drawers, everywhere.

Step 3: Separate.
Ok, this is where the fun starts! Once everything is in sight, divide it in two piles:

Pile A: The stuff that goes, trash, if you will. What you don’t need.
Pile B: The stuff that stays. What is actually needed or you can’t live without.

So the first pile, pile A, if it’s trash, why make it a pile? Because it’s good to take a picture, and measure how much of what you originally had, was actually garbage. So don’t discard it until the end, but do discard it; this is what the plastic bag is for. The first time we did this, we gathered 127Kg of trash.

By now you’re left with the stuff that is needed, right? Ok, now you’re going to divide that into two new piles:

Pile C: The stuff that needs to be in the work space.
Pile D: The stuff that is needed, but not in the immediate work area.

Step 4: Audit.
Once everybody has separated their materials, allow for some time (maybe half an hour) so that each person can go through other people’s stuff and question if an item should stay by attaching a red card to them. I like to leave a space in the card so that people can write a message on them, something like “do you really need three mugs for your pens?”.

Once the time is over, the person needs to decide whether or not the item goes. Nobody is allowed to remove the cards, until the fate of the item is determined.

And this is the end of phase 1; you now have selected what’s useful.

If you’re one of the facilitators, you will see that deciding what goes and what stays can be tricky for people, especially because we tend to become attached to some objects, so be prepared to deal with someone who thinks they need 7 blue markers and 8 red ones.

If you’re doing this on your own, be honest with yourself and think about what would happen if the object wasn’t there.

Meet me here next time, to talk about Seiton (Organize) and we’ll see what happens to the selected objects!

Do leave me a comment if you have any questions, I’d love to help! Also if you’re familiar with the methodology and would like to add to this article, do so as well! All your comments are welcome.

All the best!

For more information, visit my previous article which is an introduction to the methodology.

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