Mark Graban blogged recently about poorly executed 5S. I've also covered 5S extensively as it pertains to the management of information in an office environment. But people still get it wrong -- perhaps because they get wrapped up in the confusing jargon of Sort, Shine, and Set in Order? In any event, inspired by Mark, I've been thinking of the three key elements of 5S -- Purpose, Organization, and Maintenance -- that ensure the 5S exercise isn't a dispiriting waste of time, effort, and energy.
Framework and Maintenance, without Purpose is a soul-sucking waste of time. It's LAME masquerading as lean. As both Mark and I have written about, you've got to have a reason for implementing 5S. Just trying to keep people's offices neat and pretty without a clear business objective is pointless.
Purpose and Framework, without Maintenance makes you the victim of entropy, which is a particularly potent force in most office environments. If you're not going to make the effort to maintain the organization that you've created, don't even start. It's like cleaning your house once a year -- why even bother? The effort expended on a single, annual cleaning blitz isn't worth the payoff. Sure, for a week or two you won't be picking your way through a living room filled with empty pizza boxes, but the other 50 weeks a year you're a candidate for Hoarders.
Purpose and Maintenance, without a Framework is the epitome of ineffectiveness. If you don't have a framework for how you organize the physical and electronic information, you're just wasting your time. It's like having a car and keeping it clean without knowing how to drive. I mean, you can do it, but why?