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Blog: Use Your Space & Conquer Office Workflow
Lean Office - What is It?

I had the opportunity to interview one of the most highly sought-after speakers and Professional Organizers in the U.S., Jocelyn Coverdale. Her company Ballantrae Solutions provides answers to your organizing challenges and designs custom training to boost your effectiveness in personal productivity.  We spoke about the hot topic of "Lean Office."

Q.  What is Lean Office?

A. Coverdale - Based on the principles of Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing processes that evolved out of the highly productive Toyota Production System in Japan, Lean Office is a work improvement methodology that focuses on eliminating waste, eliminating non-value added activities, reducing costs and improving efficiency -- without sacrificing safety, value to the customer or customer service.  The process typically involves a communications plan to engage everyone involved in office processes, to get them on board to implement improvements that are identified.  Lean Office uses a highly structured 5-step process, known as 5S, to ensure that work areas are systematically clean, organized and functional, with an emphasis on standardizing, maintaining and continuously improving office processes and systems.

Q.  How can a small office/home office (SOHO) business benefit from Lean Office?

A.  Coverdale - Small offices (and to a certain extent, home offices) can apply the 5S Lean Office principles to improve the flow of activities that are at the core of their businesses.  In a nutshell, the 5 "S's" in the process are as follows:  sort (the useful from the unnecessary), shine (create a clean work environment), set (find the right place for everything);  standardize (planning, scheduling, creating guidelines and documentation, and preventative maintenance), and sustain (make "Lean Thinking" routine, carry out work audits, collect and review metrics, and applaud the results). 
There are also clearly defined tools in the Lean Office process that small offices can use effectively, including Kaizen events (continuous improvement; a daily process of spotting and systematically eliminating waste), process maps, visuals and diagrams that define standard processes, checklists, and evaluation tools.

Q.  Is Lean Office space planning and developing standard operating procedures?

A.  Coverdale - In part, but it's a more systematic process, methodology and mindset.  The focus is more on process improvement and automation rather than just organizing space and documenting procedures.  And the Lean Thinking mindset is always focused on quality, customer service and safety.

Q.  Are there any recommended books and/or on-line training to learn more about Lean Office?

A.  Coverdale - There's a ton! As a starting point, Don Tapping has written a couple of books and "pocket guides" for Lean and Lean Office which are useful resources. Numerous books have been written on "The Toyota Way" and the Toyota management culture from which these processes evolved. Many technical colleges and universities offer certificate and degree programs in Six Sigma, which includes courses in Lean, and some of those programs are delivered online.  There are also Manufacturing Extension Service organizations at the state level (in some states) that offer workshops and training programs.
Thank you for all your insight on the subject of Lean Office!

posted on: 8/24/2009 8:30:00 AM by Heather Cocozza
category: Business

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Use Your Space & Conquer Office Workflow

by Heather Cocozza

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About Heather:

Heather Cocozza, PMP, CPO® is a Professional Organizer who organizes and designs tailored home and office solutions. She is on the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO)-WDC Board of Directors 2009-2010 and is the owner of Cocozza Organizing & Design, LLC. Prior to her organizing career, Heather Cocozza worked 13 years at IBM and PricewaterhouseCoopers as an ERP Project Manager and at times traveled extensively while her "virtual" twins were between the ages of 0 to 3.

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