Some would agree that the first three steps of Lean Office 5S are the easiest. Sort and purge the contents of your office. Straighten by putting things away in designated areas. And then Sweep – keep the area clean. In order to keep your office from returning to its original state, be sure to carry out the next step which is Standardize.
Think about the work that actually gets done in your office. Many times there’s a process involved, but you don’t really think about an actual process per se, because you’ve grown accustomed to doing a particular task.
For instance, each day you might send 5-6 information packets to prospective clients. You could assemble these blindfolded in a mundane manner because you do it so often. And yet, has anyone in your office accidentally sent an incomplete packet? Probably.
When incomplete information is sent to a prospective customer, the sales process is slowed down and the risk of not getting the business increases. Considering the competitive nature of business today it is vital that when a prospect requests information he/she is serviced immediately and correctly. The first time. Every time.
Now imagine you land in the hospital tomorrow. Someone else in the office is now in charge of sending out prospective customer packets. How will they know what to include? Will they simply guess and hope they send the right items?
To begin standardizing this process:
- Create a checklist of everything included in the packet
- Make note of how it is shipped and who does the follow up
- Take a photo of what the packet should look like once assembled.
- Locate all packet supplies together on a shelf or cabinet.
- Post the checklist and photo in the area where the packet supplies are stored.
Other areas where standardization can occur include:
Color-coded filing system: For some people having 2-4 colors of folders helps them visually separate projects, documents and files. Guard against having too many colors as keeping it simple with a few general categories is often more effective.
MS® Outlook: If you use this tool there are multiple applications to standardize within it.
- You can color-code emails, helping you to spot communications coming from customers, vendors or even the boss!
- Assigning color to calendar appointments will help you see at-a-glance how your time will be spent on any particular day.
- You can sort and sift through data more quickly and efficiently using the Category option for your Contacts or Tasks.
Markings/Labels: Signage on doors, walkways, cabinet doors, and filing drawers are all visual indicators to help you save time in finding things. For offices with open floor plans having signage hanging from the ceiling will help identify particular departments or areas such as the copier and printer. And having arrows and lines painted or applied on manufacturing or warehouse floors will help the placement of equipment and direct traffic.
Standardization is documenting processes in a way that encourages things to get done in a consistent manner which also protects against errors and omissions. Begin looking around your office for the many processes that are already in place but may need a bit of tweaking.