Thursday, March 11, 2010

Kaizen and Organization

A blog post by Tim McMahon in his "A Lean Journey: The Quest for True North" inspired me to resurrect this newspaper article that I wrote two months ago. In it I write about Kaizen from the perspective of a professional organizer. In Tim McMahon's post, "Organizing for Dummies" he writes about organizing from the perspective of a professional in manufacturing who is knowledgeable in kaizen.

After World War II, the American War Department brought experts in industry to Japan to help its recovery. The experts used statistical control methods to improve design, quality, testing and sales. These methods contributed what was to become kaizen.

Kaizen is a philosophy that focuses on continuous, incremental improvements that will result in the elimination of waste and inefficiency. Although kaizen typically applies to manufacturing and business management, it can easily be applied to life in general. In particular I find the kaizen 5S framework succinctly describes good organization.

Seiri or Sort. Eliminate what is unnecessary. Do things in the proper order.

Seiton or Set in Order. Provide a home for everything. Those items that are especially useful should be easily located where they are used. Other items can be stored. Label everything to avoid confusion.

Seiso or Shine. Return items to their place when finished with them. At the end of the day, tidy your space. Cleanliness is a routine activity rather than an exceptional activity.

Seiketsu or Standardize. Create consistent routines that accomplish much with little effort. Aim for best practices and keep items operating in their best possible fashion. Insure that all members of the team know their responsibilities and how to carry them out.

Shisuke or Sustain. Muster the discipline to maintain the processes and just as important, reflect upon the process to bring about improvements.

Organization is best accomplished when the process to achieve it is continuously applied, which is the focus of kaizen. After all, a disorganized space does not occur overnight. It is just as important to emphasis that the process is not static.
Our lives are constantly changing so it makes sense that the framework to maintain order requires discipline and flexibility. The 5S framework of kaizen accommodates change by routinely reflecting upon the process through shisuke.

In manufacturing, increased efficiency and decreased waste lead to an improved bottom line. In our personal lives increased efficiency and decreased waste can lead to more time for important activities, such as family time, and more recreation – which in turn lead to greater satisfaction. In both the business and personal worlds, Kaizen’s 5S framework provides the organization needed to obtain desired goals.
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