Does 5S REALLY fail?

Throughout blogs, articles and group posts on social media, is an on-going debate or discussion about why #5S fails. It is very interesting reading the comments and varying opinions. Typically, as I’m reading, I find myself asking deeper questions, like, how can a proven solution now fail? Did the concept fail or the application of the concept fail? That to me is like a blanket statement suggesting exercise doesn’t work. When in fact the type of exercises isn’t yielding the specific desired results. If a person was interested in toning, would they power lift? Power lifting is a proven solution for building massive muscular structure.

I can recall, over 15 years ago, when I first starting studying and applying lean concepts. I was taught 5S is a foundational tool and critical to the over success of the journey. I thought, well this is easy enough and makes perfect sense to me. What could people possibly resist or not understand about 5S. We would develop these grandiose plans to 5S the entire factory; to assign zones and owners. We created rules and color codes. The project plan was aggressive. Some people were energized because we were doing something. We were DOING #LEAN. I was so disappointed after a few months of implementation, areas would slowly revert back to the original state. I would blame lack of discipline, lack of enforcement, etc. But I was relentless and persistent. I stopped short of using brute force. 

Thank goodness, I matured. I was attending an #LEI conference, when I heard the speaker sharing a lesson he was taught in Japan say, “If the student has not learned, the teacher has not taught”. At first, I wasn’t too moved, because I thought shame on the teacher for not sharing. However, I had an immediate epiphany that changed me and my approach forever. If the student did not LEARN, the teacher was not effective in teaching. 

So again, I ask, did 5S fail or did the teacher not teach? Since that OUCH and AHA moment, I have focused on driving the purpose of the concept deeply in the student, which has resulted in sustainable results. I am no longer a proponent of sweeping 5S projects. However, I am an advocate for purposeful 5S implementation.

I have never witnessed anyone deny or stop using an effective solution for a plaguing problem or issue. If you reflect on the approaches you’ve used to implement 5S, ask yourself if the implementation solved a problem or issue for the area. Or did it just organize the area. I am not suggesting that organization is not important. But I am suggesting that as teachers, we must provide a compelling reason why organizing the area is beneficial. This is when you determine the true value proposition for the user (customer) of the implementation. How ironic is it that we teach identifying VALUE for the end customer, yet we don’t consider identifying this value for those we are asking to change behaviors.

I was just speaking with a lean practitioner (not his full time role) when he shared a story about Beverly. The factory is conducting a 5S competition. And I get that sometimes these type activities spur engagement. The practitioner was saying that in his area, Beverly was confused by all the rules. She very much wanted to comply, but she was having trouble finding the value for her verses just going through the motions. So the practitioner asked Beverly to observe her work area, and share her findings. She gladly pointed out all of the things she NEEDED in her work area. He then asked her about the amount of walking she was doing to get to ALL these things. When he came back, Beverly has rearranged her area, removed the clutter, and reduced the amount of walking in her area. Beverly won a blue ribbon and is quite proud. She did DO 5S, she LEARNED 5S.

My friends, we can continue to blame leadership, culture, lack of desire or accountability for 5S failing. However, I would say that 5S does not fail. We fail to teach our students.





Comments are closed.

Sorry, you cannot comment this post