Getting organized at home

clutter

According to the site Days of the Year, January is the month to get organized.  Workplace organization is a recurrent subject for us in Better Process Solutions.  However, today I will focus on home organization. 

Home is where we go at the end of the day to wind down and recharge our batteries.  But we cannot accomplish that if the house is cluttered.  For instance, clutter is a significant source of stress in our lives.  

Why clutter affect us?  

Sherrie Bourg Carter wrote about why clutter causes stress in the Psychology Today blog.  In her article, she indicated that clutter blasts our minds with excessive stimuli.  As a result, our senses work overtime on stimuli that are not necessary or important.  She also mentioned that clutter distracts us by drawing our attention away from what our focus should be.  Besides, it constantly signals to our brains that our work is never done.

As a result, our brain is switching focus from the task we intend to do to the clutter around us.  Every time we look at the mess, we start to have negative feelings.  For example, you can experience guilt or embarrassment.  Clutter causes anxiety and makes it more difficult to relax.

Benefits of getting organized at home

  • Reduced stress and anxiety levels.  
  • More time and space around the house.
  • Save money, because you will not buy things to replace what you cannot find or will not pay your bills late.
  • Be able to relax, focus on what is important, and be more creative.

How to get organized at home

One of my favorites continuous improvement tools is 5S.  5S is a five steps method for housekeeping and organization.  You can read how to organize your kitchen, closets, and garage in previous posts.  

Practicing 5S at home can be a fun way of getting organized.  When done in the workplace, 5S is a team activity.  The people that work in the area participate in the process and contribute with ideas.  You can do the same thing at home, with your spouse and kids.  

Summary

Clutter hinders creativity and productivity.  It increases your levels of stress and anxiety.  Not only that, looking at the mess around you will cortisol.  Elevated levels of cortisol cause depression.  Thus, practicing organization is a way to keep your mental health in check.

In addition, can help to control your weight.  While researching for this post, I came across the book Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight.  The author, Peter Walsh, build upon a study that showed that people with cluttered homes were 77% more likely to be overweight or obese.  He thinks the reason is that people can’t make their best choices in a cluttered, messy, disorganized home.

In conclusion, getting organized will help you and your family to be healthier, have more creativity and productivity, and enjoy each other.

Reference

Bourg-Carter, S. (2012, March). Why Mess Causes Stress: 8 Reasons, 8 Remedies.  [Blog post] Accessed 1/6/2021.  Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/high-octane-women/201203/why-mess-causes-stress-8-reasons-8-remedies

Humans err, how do you build robust systems?

Humans err, we make mistakes all the time.  While working, it is common to feel the pressure to finish the workload on time.  Interruptions and problems with the material, equipment, or computerized systems only add more stress and increase the opportunities to make mistakes.  But those are not the only sources of stress, and therefore of defects or errors.  The process itself can be the biggest problem if it is not robust and aim to keep human error to a minimum.  A good system or process reduces the worker’s physical and mental burden by eliminating the need to inspect for common mistakes that leads to defects. 

A bad system will beat a good person every time.

W. Edwards Deming

How do you know that a process is not robust?  If it has one or more of the following characteristics is a perfect candidate for a Kaizen or continuous improvement event.   

  • It has a high defects rate
  • Nobody wants to do it; people are regularly complaining about how difficult it is
  • The workers often missed steps or use the wrong material
  • Missing parts or information 
  • The equipment is not set-up properly
  • The machine, program, or tools do not operate as desired

How do you build a robust system?  Like with any other continuous improvement activity, it is critical to have the participation of the team.  They know better than anybody else how it should work and the daily hassles and challenges.  These are some things to do to design a robust system.

  1. Learn what are the most common mistakes and rack them based on severity or frequency.  Choose one or two to tackle during this event.
  2. Listen to the voice of the customer, in this case, your employees.  Because they feel the pain and stress, it is in their best interest to fix the faulty process.  Ask them why they make mistakes?  You can use the cause and effect analysis or the 5 Why to find the root cause.   
  3. Brainstorming for improvement ideas, look for preventive measures.  How can you prevent the mistake from happening?
  4. Promote mistake-proofing devices as a method to prevent mistakes.  These devices reduce or minimize the chances of human error.
  5. While improving the process, instill on your employees the concept, Quality at the source.  Instead of having people downstream inspecting the product, each person is responsible for their work inspection.   If they find a defect, take corrective action, and avoid passing it to the next person.    

Robust systems acknowledge that mistakes happen and aim to achieve smooth processes with fewer defects. This kind of system improves the work environment by removing the blame culture.  So, instead of blaming the worker, fix the process by making it robust. 

Are you sure you have visual controls? Do you know the difference between visual control and a display?

Often people confuse visual controls with visual displays. A visual control calls for action while a display exhibits information.  5S, the five steps for cleaning and organization provides the basis to build a visual workplace.  There are four different stages or types of visual management, display, calls for attention, organize behavior and defects prevention.  Only the last three are considered visual controls, they show the standard and the actual performance.

The basic stage of visual management display, it only exhibits or tells information.  Level 1 of this stage, gives people information that you want or need them to know.  For example, headcount, open positions, visitor schedules, and safety trends.  The second level shares standards at the site.  Work standards remind the employee of the right way to do the job, but they do not tell what to do if something is out of standard.  

The second stage, calls for attention, has levels 3 and 4.  In level 3, you start building standards into the workplace.  The difference is that now, a signal points out when something is out of standard.  At this step, you start using, for example, status boards with metrics posted each hour, heat sensor stickers, gauge labels, and oil level indicators.  

Level 3 sets the baseline for the next level where metrics are in real-time, and alarms or strobe lights go off when the actual performance is different than standard.  At level 4, the visual warns about abnormalities it speaks to you.   

The third stage, organize behavior, is level 5.  When something happens, it calls your attention and also guides your behavior.  In other words, it prevents defects from happening because you know what to do when you receive the warning.

The ultimate goal of every visual management system, prevent mistakes, is level 6.  At this stage, you and your team implement simple, low-cost devices that prevent problems from happening or stops the workflow when defects occur to prevent more.  Error-proof devices have shapes, guides, or sensors that prevent the person from inserting them in the wrong direction or shut down the device to avoid injuries.  

Many companies never moved from the first stage, and wrongfully think that they have visual controls.  To avoid that mistake, start with 5S and keep improving, one step at a time to reach the ultimate goal, mistake-proof controls.  In my next publication, I will show you examples of each stage of visual management.

What is visual management?

Visual management is a way of visual communication. The purpose is to convey accurate information, standards, and performance within the workplace. Moreover, it seeks to make it available at all times to those who need it.  The objective is to make out of normal situations visible to everybody so that corrective actions can start immediately.   Visual controls communicate a standard and actual performance.

A good visual workplace speaks for itself. It is easy to understand the status of the system performance at a glance. Efficient visuals are simple, easy to see, and read. Everybody understands the same thing and act in the same way. Managers, supervisors, and operators know what to do with the information. 

Visual Design Process

  • The first step to create visual controls is 5S, the foundation of visual management.
  • The first level of visual control is put in place while working in the step 4, Standardization.
  • Visual control design is a team activity, have a group of them participating in the process.
  • Ask the following questions 
    • What do I need to know? What do I need to share? Where? When? Who? How? How many?
  • Provide specific, precise, and complete information (the answer to the above questions).
  • The answer to those questions needs to be obvious as people walk through the workplace.

Visuals format

  • Create a basic layout, each type of information, always goes in the same place.
  • It must be visible at a distance, choose wisely the background, font type, color, and size.  
  • Use graphics or pictures whenever it is possible, but do not overcrowd the visual.
  • Adopt a symbol to acknowledge when the team meets the goals.

Presentation

  • Use less words, if possibly create symbols instead of a lengthy text, they take less time to read.
  • To ensure it is easy to understand, use simple words, clear pictures, and charts.
  • Use color coding when possible, be consistent with the meaning of the colors across the site.

Location and Use

  • Install visuals at the point of use, where the information is needed.
  • Ensure that everybody knows what the visual is, the objective, and rules.

In summary, for visual management to be real and effective, everybody has to see the same, know the same information, understand the same, and act in the same way.  If these conditions are not present, then the visual is not effective.  In a visually managed workplace, anyone will know the who, what, where, when, why, and how of an area within 5 minutes.

Is visual display and visual control the same thing?

A visual display share information at the point of need

Do you know the difference between visual control and visual display? A display tells information, and control prompts some action.

A visual display shares information or standards. It provides the right information, in the right format, at the point of need. Some examples are bin labels to identify different parts or materials, floor markings, safety signs, and defects displays. Work instructions and other types of job aids are also examples of visual display. Bulletin boards to share information like the safety record for the year, open job postings, and changes in policy are a very common visual display.

A visual control calls for action when something happens. The standards are part of the workplace, and a warning makes you notice that something abnormal happened. Sometimes, visual controls not only warn that something happened but also organizes behavior. When an operator pulls an Andon cord, the line stops sending a powerful signal warning of problems in the line. Everybody knows the warning means that the line stopped, and help is needed to fix a problem. The ultimate goal of a workplace is to have visual controls that prevent defects. Mistake proof controls use techniques that make it impossible to make mistakes.

Warning and call for action, organize behavior, and defect prevention are different levels of visual control. A visual display is the first step before you start building visual controls into the workplace. Many companies never moved from this stage, and wrongfully think that they have visual controls. To avoid that same mistake, keep improving one step at a time to reach the ultimate goal, to have mistake-proof controls.

What is Visual Control?

Road traffic safety is an example of visual controls

The ultimate goal of 5S is to create a visual workplace. Visual controls make problems visible, communicate status, and improve performance. They also guide people to stop or prevent abnormalities.

A key component of road traffic safety is the group of lane markings, traffic signs, and signals. Think about a street’s intersection. The traffic light and pedestrian crosswalk are visual controls. As a driver, if you are facing a red line, you know that your right of way has ended, and you stop. A pedestrian uses the pedestrian signals to know when it is safe to cross. In the workplace, you can use visual controls to warn when it is time to buy more office paper or to communicate that help is needed.

Everybody in the work area understands the visual control objectives and knows what to do with the information. They work because when looking at them, everybody understands the same thing and act the same way.

If you use a chart to show orders completed per hour, you should be able to know if there are delays by looking at it. What you see will tell you if there is a reason to hurry up or just relax and keep your pace. Another example is the red tags used in the Red Tag Campaign as part of 5S. These red labels indicate that something was out of place, and call your attention for action.

If you want to create visual controls remember the following:

  • Make the team part of the visual control design process.
  • It must be visible at a distance, choose wisely the font type, color, and size.
  • Avoid cluttered signs and charts, it has to be easy to understand.
  • Use color code and fewer words whenever is possible.
  • Visuals communicate a standard and actual performance.
  • Ensure that the entire team knows what it is, the objective and rules. Even when they participate in the design process, a meeting or training to share those details is important. This will ensure everybody understands the same thing and reacts the same way to the signals.

In future posts, I will talk more about examples. For now, look around and identify visual controls around. Think about how you can apply this tool in your business. Any ideas?

Are your processes consistent?

Do you get the same results out of a process always? If you do, then the process is stable, but if you don’t, then you need to stabilize it. How do you do that? 5S and visual management are the foundation for processes consistency.

5S stands for five words that together make this cleaning and organization methodology. The steps are Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. By making 5S part of the daily routine, the workplace is clean and organized all the time. If somebody is not following the standard, and causing inconsistencies in the results, it is easier to see and correct.

A standard is what is supposed to happen. If your process does not have a standard, you need to create one. There are no improvements without standards, they are the baseline for comparison. In a visual workplace, the out-of-standard situation is easy to recognize, and employees can easily correct it.

When we fail to achieve the expected results, it is because the process fails. To have consistent results, we need to follow the standard. To improve the results, we have to improve the process. In my next post, I will discuss 5S in detail.