How can I implement 5S without stress?

3 mins read

Put your Iean know-how to the test in our all-new continuous improvement dilemma column

"We're six months into our continuous improvement journey and, despite some early wins, have hit some major teething troubles. The problems began with our attempt to introduce a 5S campaign. "We sat the guys down in their teams and spent days training them on the theory of sorting, sweeping, spic and span, sifting and sustain. We showed them the obvious benefits of a clean, ordered working environment on production speed and quality. "The majority of our guys seemed very enthusiastic and eagerly agreed to kick things off by having a clean out of their garbage. The management team agreed to provide recycling bins and look favourably on requests for new racking and shelving where it could be demonstrated to have an obvious business benefit. We even offered to come and help repaint shabby areas of the factory floor. "One of the production teams, in particular, leapt at the opportunity. A day later the shift leader, Steve, knocked on my door and had pages of designs and notes. Steve's team had stayed late to work out a new floor plan. They had calculated a 20% reduction in muda by bringing some key components to a new lineside rack and were eager to smarten their manufacturing cell area up with a lick of paint. "I was bowled over by Steve's enthusiasm and didn't hesitate to sign everything off. It all seemed to be going so well; Steve's team wielded paintbrushes and screwdrivers and, within a few days, their area looked totally transformed. I had hoped this would lay down a marker to all the other shifts, but the reverse was true. I noticed Steve's team were sitting in isolation from all the other guys in the staff canteen during shift breaks. "Furthermore, we've become aware of graffiti in the factory toilets which reads: 'G Shift [Steve's] are a bunch of kiss arses'. I'm pretty sure I know who the ringleaders are, but how can I solve this without jeopardising our CI programme and further reinforcing Steve's reputation as a management suck-up?" --Solution-- Kevin Eyre of S A Partners gives the expert view... So, dear writer, you've asked how you can solve this problem of the isolation of Steve's team without jeopardising your CI programme or Steve's reputation. So, here's a view... First, you've done the right thing in following-up by matching words with deeds in your support for Steve's enthusiastic team. They came forward with concrete plans and you responded. It's certainly a bit disappointing that other teams have reacted in the way they have and, as managers, it would be easy to respond harshly; the graffiti is certainly unacceptable, but a heavy-handed crack-down might back-fire. So how should we interpret the unpalatable behaviour? First, it's important to recognise that there has been a reaction! It might be variously described as juvenile or aggressive, but the fact that there has been a reaction is good news. The status quo has been upset and people's nervousness about what it all means has got the better of them. Think how much more distressing no reaction or a passive response might have been. Secondly, the composition of Steve and his team might just be that little more innovatively inclined. The excellent work of Dr. Michael Kirton makes clear the differences between those people who seize upon new initiatives and exploit them (innovators) and those who take a more cautious approach to innovation preferring an 'adaptive' response (adaptors). Often, the differences between the psychology of these individuals leads them to resist one another, creating tension. Kirton's theory is that the best outcomes occur when innovators and adaptors works together, combining risk-taking with discipline and method. Could this be the case here? So, what to do? It's the change process that needs to be addressed and not the behaviour per se. The 5S pebble has landed in the pond and there are some ripples. Here's a suggested approach: Bring the workforce together for a 'check' meeting and deal quickly and clearly with the graffiti issue. "It's unacceptable. It will stop." Allow the members of Steve's team (but not Steve) to present their work to their colleagues. This will be the more acceptable face of the improvement effort – it's not just Steve who thinks this is worth doing and it can't be the case that all team members are bad. Invite discussion and, in particular, invite objections. All views are valid. Remember, it's an absence of viewpoint that's the sc­ourge of change, not its apparent opposition. Directly ask what other teams are now prepared to commit to given the obvious operational benefits of the programme. Propose the formation of a site steering group with the intent of deliberately involving the participation of those people most hostile to the process. Better to have them 'in the tent...' and a la Kirton, bring 'difference' together Assert the need for a monthly 'check' meeting of this sort to learn and to improve performance which you will lead. Would you have done things Kevin's way? Or would you deal with the 5S saboteurs differently? Email