Lean Management Theory

Lean Management Theory


  1. “The concept of 5S is just one of several key elements of the lean principle, which is designed to improve efficiency in the workplace while promoting organization and cleanliness.”


I can remember my teenage years. I started working at the age of 12 as a ranch hand and continued to work through this day. During those years, I worked as much as I was needed, because $20 was more attractive than anything else that I was doing with my time. My room was a disaster. I had trails in order to go from the door to the bed and another trail to get to the dresser. Fast forward 7 years, I was working at Sam’s Club 8298 during the overnight shift. I was nicknamed “The Tornado”. I could stock off a pallet faster than anyone else in the club. At times, they had to have someone come behind me to clean up after me, because it was faster to let me do all of the heavy work and pay someone else to do the “easy” stuff”. Continue to fast forward to one year ago, I was the most productive therapist in the clinic, priding myself in how many patients I could treat in a day, and still get good results of course. Fast forward to today, I realize that none of that matters. If I can teach people to do what I do, then I can help to create systems, which is now more interesting to me than simply stocking shelves, feeding horses, or treating patients. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy treating patients, but I can only effect one person at a time. That is not as productive as creating systems to treat 10’s of patients at once, with the same treatment philosophy and outcomes. I now realize the importance of cleaning up my room, 36 years later.


  1. “The 5 “S’s” in Japanese are Seiri (tininess), Seiton (orderliness), Seiso (cleanliness), Seiketsu (standardization), and Shitsuke (discipline)”


Am I the only one imagining Myagi-son saying these words with emphasis? It sounds do formal and warrior-like.


  1. “In its simplest form it is designed to keep the workplace safe and organized without regard to size or pace”


When I worked at Sam’s, I could do aisles per night without ever tiring. Now, I left all of the cleaning until the end of the night (unless of course they had someone come over and clean up after me). What was the problem with waiting until the end of the shift to clean? I made everyone else’s jobs harder by taking up so much space that it was hard to get a forklift down my aisle during the shift. It was very productive for me, but I slowed down the entire team. It took years to figure this out, but my zealousness of productivity may be a detriment to the team.


  1. “The goal of the 5S is to remove waste, both actual and conceptual, by eliminating excess inventory and out-of-stock supplies, and reducing wasted time searching for, getting to , and waiting for supplies”


This is but one example. Think of the 20,000 foot view of eliminating waste (both in terms of stuff not used, and time spent on stuff not needed). I try to listen to multiple podcasts per day, and this concept is spoken of in many shows such as EntreLeadership, Barbell business, Tim Ferriss, and The School of Greatness.


  1. “Keep only what is necessary”


This is hard to do, especially when thinking of “what if”. I have like 8 pairs of jeans, but will only wear the jeans that don’t restrict my squat, namely 2 pairs. This means that at the end of my closet, I have 6 pairs of jeans that haven’t been worn in a long time, just in case I need to wear a third pair of jeans. The clutter in the closet would be removed if I just donated or sold the other pairs of jeans. Parting with any thing that we “own” is hard because we can always create scenarios in which those “things” are needed. Unfortunately, that same scenario never plays out in real life.


  1. “…identify, organize, and arrange everything in the work area, so that items can be efficiently and effectively retrieved…Everything should have a place and a purpose”


I suck at this step. Good story. I am on a team that is very close in terms of trust and partnership at work. There is a long running joke that I am Oscar and my supervisor is Felix. Hang out with us enough and it becomes obvious to those that understand the metaphor. I am learning that I need to become more like Felix in order to improve professionally. (For those that don’t understand the metaphor, go look up the Odd Couple…and nothing that was produced after 1990).


  1. “Once you have everything sorted and set, it is important to keep it that way…requires regular cleaning”


Because I suck at the previous step, this is also not a strong point for me. I know where I want to keep things, but for some unknown reason my way is not always the best way for everyone else. I struggle with the regular cleaning step. When I worked at PT and Spine, Bill was a stickler for standard operating procedures (SOPs). It wasn’t written, but he had a way that he like the clinic cleaned every night before locking the door. There was a proper way to open and close the clinic. Because I don’t have that type of standard at the place I work now, it makes it difficult to put everything in its place. I know that it sounds corny to think that there should be a standard operating procedure for the little things, but go back and listen to barbell business’ SOPs episode and it will all make sense.


  1. “Develop written structures and standards that will support the new practices and turn them into habits”


I am hard headed at some things. When it comes to organization, I have the ability to learn it, but I am a slow learner. I can spout off statistics on back pain, I can assess/treat darn near anything coming into the door, but performing organizations skills and all of a sudden…DUH? In Bill’s clinic, I was there for 2 years and by the time I left, I was able to leave the clinic in the exact way that I found it.


Funny story though: My dad is a Vietnam Vet (101st Airborne medic) and he could tell if something in his room moved while he was at work. Needless to say, if I wanted to be discreet, I could be. Unfortunately, this same discreetness doesn’t carry over to other situations.


  1. “Standardize is one of the harder steps in 5s as it calls for changing habits”


If I were a clinic owner, I would only hire new graduates that performed a clinical with me. It just seems much easier to teach what I find works best than to unteach stuff that I don’t like or research doesn’t support and then teach what I do prefer. This being said, being in a clinic with people who have much “experience” makes creating new standards difficult. Clinicians can be set in their ways and change can be scary. It is less scary for those that don’t know any better.


Excerpts taken from:

Spradling SC. Practice Management Systems: Add value to your practice by “5S’ing”. Impact. June 2016:31-32.

Categories Physical therapy, PTs, Written BlogsTags ,

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