How to Create a Productive Working Environment Using Lean Management
What does a productive working environment look like? If you were to closely examine the workspace in your small business, how would you be able to tell whether or not your team is performing at the highest level of productivity? Some of the best examples of productivity in a workspace actually come from nature. When you observe the way ant colonies and bee hives are structured, it’s easy to see that each insect knows its directive as a member of the team. Every team member knows what to do and how to do it, making it possible for the team to function as a unit and work together as a well-oiled machine.
In order for the working environment in your small business to truly be productive, the one thing that is needed is organization. Lean management is a form of organization that creates a productive working environment through the process of meeting customer expectations, reducing waste, and committing to continuous improvement. There are a number of elements to the lean management system, but in this article, we will highlight a few pointers you can implement today to create a more productive working environment for your small business!
The 5-S Method
Part of having a productive work environment requires having a clean and organized workspace. Think of the structure of a bee hive or an ant colony. Both have very specific compartments designated for specific tasks, and each worker knows exactly where things go. They know where to store food, where to offer nursery services for the babies, and even where to rest. Our office spaces must also be organized, if we want our team members to quickly and efficiently complete their tasks.
The 5-S method consists of a list of five words that all start with the letter “s”:
Sort: go through items and separate what you need from what you don’t need in a given area. Get rid of the items you no longer need in order to reduce clutter.
Straighten: for the items that are needed, organize them in a manner that they are easily accessible. Be sure to label the new locations for each item so as to reduce confusion about where the items belong.
Shine: ensure that the work environment and your equipment are regularly clean and safe to use.
Standardize: create a standard procedure for employees based off of the first three steps.
Sustain: continue to maintain the standard for as long as it works for your business.
Generally speaking, the 5s method is all about simplification. When you can simplify your work space, the work that must be done within that space also becomes simplified.
The Pull System
Whereas the 5-S method focuses on organization in the workplace itself, the pull system focuses on the actual production process. In some circles this system can also be referred to as a “just in time system” or a “build to order” system. The pull system is designed to increase productivity by only producing goods or services when customer demand is present. Instead of wasting money to create stock that sits until customers want it, the product is only created when the customers ask for it.
The pull system gets its name from doing the opposite of the typical work system, wherein work is pushed from one department to the next regardless of whether or not the department has the capacity to take in more work. Through this method, coworkers work together to help each other finish tasks before starting new ones. Again, looking at an ant colony, whenever an ant is injured, you may see another ant carrying that ant back to the colony or even licking the injured ant’s wounds. The ants save each other for the good of the colony. Likewise, implementing the pull system will allow your staff to work together for the good of your small business.
Improve, Improve, Improve
One of the foundational principles of the lean management system is a commitment to continue to improve. Whenever you’re implementing new organizational systems, there are bound to be plenty of kinks, and that’s okay. As long as you are evaluating your systems and identifying what doesn’t work, you can always isolate the issues and try new strategies. In fact, that’s good management. And this isn’t just a one-time event. You’ll want to constantly review the productivity of your methods, whether it’s on a daily or monthly basis.
If you would like help with implementing the lean management system in your small business or evaluating the systems you currently have in place, Tuxedo Impressions LLC™ is here to help. Contact us today for a consultation.
~ Jamara Wilson, Team Tuxedo Impressions LLC™