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Neat and tidy

Posted in: Consultancy, Systems Thinking 0 Comments

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I was talking to a consultant a few days ago who was relaying how a lean initiative they launched within their business got off to a sticky start because people were being forced to remove their jackets from the back of chairs and take pictures off their desks. Oddly, the staff weren't up for helping out on any of the more practical follow up initiatives. While this is a particularly strict interpretation of the rules of 5S, (a standardisation tool to help improve efficiency by making sure workspaces are clear and tidy), I have always wondered whether the efficacy of 5S techniques had any serious psychological backing.

So I was quite pleased when this post from Psyblog popped into my inbox recently, outlining the effects of tidy and messy desks. It seems that tidy desks do make people do what is expected of them, follow conventional norms and make more healthy choices. Unfortunately for the lean addicts in the room, tidy desks also seem to have a detrimental effect on creativity. In standard tests of creativity people with messy desks had more creative ideas than those in more tidy environments. Another study by Haslam and Knight demonstrated that when people were allowed to decorate their own offices higher productivity ensued.

So it seems the traditional 5S process works, but not as well as would be hoped by some of the more slavish lean practitioners. If you want to know how you could improve the 5S process this more recent post, also from Psyblog would be a good place to start. 

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