5S – Learning To Ask “Why?”

ShadowboardThis photo could have been taken anywhere, in any factory I have ever seen. The fact that I do not have to describe what is out of place is a credit to the visual control. It is obvious. But one of my Japanese sensei’s once said “A visual control that does not trigger action is just a decoration.”

What action should be triggered? What would the lean thinker do?

The easy thing is to put the tape where it belongs.
But there is some more thinking to do here. Ask “Why?”

Why is the tape out of place? Is this part of the normal process? It the tape even necessary? If the Team Member feels the need to have the tape, what is it used for? If the Team Member needs the tape there has the process changed? Or did we just design a poor shadow board?

That last question is important because when you first get started, it is usually the case. We make great looking shadow boards, but the tools and hardware end up somewhere else when they are actually being used.

Why? Where is the natural flow of the process?

Before locking down “point of use” for things, you need to really understand the POINT where things are actually USED. If the location for things like this does not support the actual flow of the normal process, then you will have no way to tell “the way things are” from “the way they should be.”

The purpose of 5S is not to clean up the shop. The purpose is to make it easier to stand in your chalk circle and see what is really happening. The purpose is to begin to ask “Why?”

By the way – if you see an office chair or a trash can being used as an assembly bench, you need to spend a little more time in your chalk circle. 🙂

11 Replies to “5S – Learning To Ask “Why?””

  1. I liked very much. I would ask your permission to put the translation in my company news letter about 5S.
    Thank you.

  2. Very good post. Can I have your permission to use the image in a talk that I am putting together on the application of 5S in the emergency department?

  3. Excellent point made and a common lament when explaining or correcting 5S in the workplace. I will also present the point that 5S is the foundational step in Lean and asking “Why” is where we start to combat the “We’ve always done it this way” attitudes and start to change the culture.

  4. I have seen plenty of shadow boards in my line of work. Some if the reasons, tools are not returned to shadow boards are:
    1. Not with in arms reach.
    2. Somone else borrowers them.
    3. No need for tools after improvements.
    Taking 5S to the next level is to have no tools
    during to do a change over.

    Thank you for sharing!

  5. Hi Mark,

    I would like to ask your permission for using this image as an example in a presentation (Interaction Design Bachelor Program, Malmoe, Sweden) that discusses the concept of visual control. I would appreciate it much if would reply to this, preferably by email.



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