As professional office organizers and 5S Experts, we are constantly looking for ways to create visual management systems and workplace flow within our client’s offices.
I can think of no better example of Lean Daily Management than the one and only Julia Child’s famous kitchen. Though she was certainly not a manufacturer, Julia had a very special and intimate knowledge of her own workspace, along with her needs for uninterrupted and focused workflow. Her famous kitchen, now in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian in Boston, is truly a work of art. But not only that, it gives us insight into the ways that Lean and 5S practices can transform any space, no matter its size or function.
When the organization of our office workspace space is visible, Lean 5S processes are easier to respect and maintain. People who use the area understand standards and visual cues, and they usually find it an immense relief to know where to locate the right tool for the job – and where to put it back. This organization maintains flow in the office, reduces waste and promotes harmony for everyone.
Here are a few things we can learn from Julia:
Organize Your Office as a Visual Factory
Julia’s husband, Paul, hung vertical pegboard to display Julia’s utensils, pots and pans. He also traced outlines of the pots and pans so she’d know where to put them back. This shadow board technique allowed Julia to keep her kitchen in pristine working order.
She also displayed her knives on wall-mounted magnetic strips. Rather than searching through a knife block to find the one she needed, the visual display allowed Julia to choose the right tool and put it back quickly and effortlessly.
Julia also made sure to place all objects that she needed most often close at hand, and near to their point of use. She wasted almost no time searching for items or walking back and forth to find things she needed.
Her kitchen is also extremely well-lit, allowing her to clearly see all of her inventory and to get the job done without fumbling or squinting.
Lean Office Tips: Eliminate clutter-prone drawers, nooks and crannies and create a “visual factory” by leveraging vertical space. Also, consider objects in your office and where they are located. Placing items you use often right at your fingertips will expedite workflow and reduce stress. Keeping office storage closets well-lit will help reduce wasted search time.
Keep Your 5S Office Lean:
Have the Right Tools for the Job
When viewing Julia’s kitchen, it is obvious that she kept only the tools on hand that were useful and meaningful, and would get the job done. Though everything is on the walls rather than in a drawer, she still manages to make it look orderly and functional. Resist hanging onto items that do not serve you or your employees!
In addition, Julia was known for keeping only good quality tools on hand.
Lean Office Tip: Replace old tools when needed and create office guidelines for knowing when their time is up. We have a tendency, especially in the office, to hold onto old things because we “might” use them again. If this is the case, create a Holding Area for those items and cycle them out at a designated time.
Organize your office space for its use and function
As we all know, Julia was quite tall! To accommodate for her height and to prevent back problems, she had her husband raise the countertops to a 38” height rather than the standard 36”. The result was a comfortable standing position for a person who was often on her feet all day.
Lean Office Tip: Meeting your or your employee’s physical restrictions and needs is important, since they will likely be at their workspace for hours at a time. Consider what adjustments (perhaps less extreme!) might benefit your workspace. Is your office chair old or worn out? Might your employees benefit from a standing desk station to take a break from sitting? Consider these Continuous Improvement options for a more customized workspace.
You can visit Julia’s kitchen at the Smithsonian and observe even more ways in which she practiced her own unique form of Lean Daily Management.
Can you find any ways to incorporate Julia’s methods into your own lean 5S office? If so, we’d love to hear from you!