Toyota Helps a Young Inventor; Look at His Dad’s Toyota Desk | Mark Graban | LeanBlog

“Toyota USA shared a nice video featuring an 11-year old inventor, Bishop Curry. His dad, Bishop Curry Sr. works for Toyota Financial Services and he’s also in the video.[…] In the video, some small details beyond his invention jumped out at me. I was looking at his dad’s Toyota workplace.For one, the elder Bishop is shown at his stand-up desk.

I noticed Toyota is setting a good example when it comes to desk practices (beyond the standing desk and the multiple monitors, which are proven to improve productivity).When looking at what some other companies do, I’ve complained for a long time about what I think are misguided “Office 5S” or “Lean Office” initiatives that will insist it’s “Lean” to do things like telling employees they must:

  • Put tape around your keyboard and desk items
  • Remove family photos as “non-productive items”

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Michel Baudin‘s comments: Over the years, Mark has posted several times about misguided efforts at “Office 5S” that don’t improve performance and are resented by office workers. Generally, I agree with him. Tidying up desks doesn’t have much of an effect because most of the work isn’t done on the desk but inside a computer network. Where organization is required is in the databases and software applications an office relies on, more than in the furniture or the copier.

Some of the 5S policies make sense on a production shop floor but not in an office. For example, not allowing family photos and other personal items at a production station is appropriate for two reasons, none of which apply in an office:

  1. Operators move between stations. As much as we find it comforting to see pictures of our own kids, we don’t care so  much for pictures of other people’s kids.
  2. There is no spare space. All the space at a production station is needed for tools, materials, fixtures, instructions. If there is any left, you move the adjacent stations closer, you don’t use it for personal items. The team’s green corner, where it congregates for briefings and breaks, is a place where members could post pictures.

Location labeling makes sense for shared resources. You label tool positions on a shadow board in production so that multiple operators can find them easily. In the US, each office worker has miscellaneous supplies like scissors, tape dispensers, and a stapler, like Milton in Office Space:

Working in Japan, I was surprised to see such items shared among multiple colleagues. They were stored in a transparent plastic box with a nook for every tool. These nooks were labeled so that you could know where to put it back after use. Where all office workers have their own, you don’t need labels.

Clean desk policies are a different story. I remember at Intel that every employee was required to put away every document on the desk in a locked drawer before leaving. The point was protection of proprietary information, and the rule was enforced. In the same spirit, meeting participants were required to wipe clean all boards before leaving.

A less compelling justification I heard in Japanese factories for using 5S in the offices of the support departments — regardless of whether it was any use in its own right — was to show solidarity with Production. When visiting the offices, the production supervisors could see that the same disciplines were followed as on the shop floor.

Consultants who make a living telling other people to implement 5S do not always do it in their own offices. I remember a firm that had no permanently assigned desks for its consultants. When they were not in the field, they grabbed a desk for the day in one of several large rooms.

From a visual management standpoint, it would have made sense for each of these rooms to have a name and a label above the door, with a map in the lobby and magnetic name tags for each occupant to post his or her location on this map. This would have saved anyone looking for them the trouble of going through every room or calling their mobile phones to get directions to an unnamed room. Management refused to do it because it would have made the lobby “ugly.”

#Lean, #5S, #Office5S

One comment on “Toyota Helps a Young Inventor; Look at His Dad’s Toyota Desk | Mark Graban | LeanBlog

  1. Thanks for the comments and sharing the post.

    I agree that shared resources are a different matter. A shared nurses’ station might mark the home location of a stapler – the stapler is more likely to end up back there. I’ve seen that dynamic. Putting tape around the non-movable printer in the nurse’s station is a waste of tape.

    I’ve heard the “solidarity with production” argument. Do the workers in production really care or does that just make the office people feel good?

    It’s a shame when people prioritize “tidy” over effective — case in point the Virginia Mason story that’s in my post. Why should doctor or nurse put their stethoscope in a drawer? Because it’s tidy? Ridiculous.

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