I have always been impressed by the Japanese. I don’t know much of their history but the way in which they reacted after the atom bombs devastated two of their major towns is extremely impressive. Any other country would have got so angry and engaged all its military might and tried to develop a bomb that would destroy at least four more towns of their enemy. The Japanese also got angry. But they let all their anger flow in a totally different direction. They were the first country to engage the experts in their own game (I hope you get the pun J ). And boy, weren’t they hugely successful!
When I was very young, I saw the photo of a notice board outside a Japanese Factory (It was published in a major Tamil magazine called Ananda Vikadan) reading something like – “Pay would be cut for those workers who would be coming to work on Saturdays and Sundays” They are so committed to work that even on weekends they tend to go to factories and offices. Talk about Job satisfaction! Around the same time, one of my English teachers was back from a short teachers exchange program in a Japanese school. She was all praise for Japanese student’s discipline and decorum. It seems they were so quiet and attentive throughout her class. And if they went out, say for sports hour etc, they actually formed a line! ( I can understand her agony given the fact that she was telling all these things when she was shouting at all of us for doing exactly the opposite!). There were some more incidents that I came to know – The Toyota cars in Japan don’t come with the tool kit it seems (The company says there cannot be any problems at all, and when one was reported, right from the CEO to the employee who assembled the car were involved in sorting it out and making sure it doesn’t occur again – But I don’t know how far this is true). And one more incident which I read some where as a true joke – The Japanese don’t boycott work if they want to strike. They just do more work than allotted to them so that their marketing managers find it tough to sell all of it and huge stock piles up in the factory!
I later read in a book called “Made in Japan” by the co-founder of Sony Corporation – Akio Morita about the concept of Inheritance Taxes – If you inherit your parent’s property then you are taxed. In fact, there is a saying in Japan that wealth made by forefathers doesn’t last beyond three generations because the taxes are so high after each generation. (I know you want to fight this point out in the comments section, but I just think they are wise enough to bring in such a concept. Wise is the word I used.) He also goes to say that the salary of a CEO may be about 10 times that of a fresher and nothing more. Once again, they impress with their wisdom. When he wanted to expand his operations in USA, he says that he was quite upset about the legal formalities that need to be completed to do business there. In Japan, he says, if the head of an organization commits to the head of another organization even verbally, it is as good as any written contract and the words will be kept (And look what happens here – hmmm!). Do read the book when you get time.
Coming to the title of this post, the 5S is a Japanese management concept which can apply to anything, not only shop floors and manufacturing facilities. They are so simple but yet insightful that you can use them for organizing, say your folders in PC or Email, or your kitchen, etc.
Seiri – Put things in order. Arrange, sort. Keep only the essential items – Discard the unessential ones.
Seiton – Proper arrangement. Set in order. There should be a place for everything and everything should be in their place. They should be reached easily when needed.
Seiso – Clean. Keep things clean and polished so that you would love to work with them. This cleaning should be a part of daily work – not after things get messed up!
Seiketsu – Purity and Standardization. Operate in consistent fashion to yield consistent results.
Shitsuke – Sustaining the discipline. Maintaining and reviewing standards. Once the previous 4S have been established, they become a new way to operate. But if there is a suggested improvement or a new tool, then a review of the 4S is appropriate.
Simple and effective.
You could find similar articles in the Concepts and Ideas section of this blog.