Seeking Tips: Office Improvement - Best Practices

Here I go again... I'd like you to consider this angle:

Most of the time we try to improve the workshops, but how about ourselves? We have been discussing continual improvement and preventive action to fare the well.. How about our own desks (I presume that most of us have one), bookshelves, cabinets, PC's et all? Are we projecting the image we would like to, or....?

  • Our desks? Paper avalanche hazard areas?
  • Bookshelves and cabinets? Are they full of stuff we "may need some day"?
  • Our computers? Can we find what we need without searching for hours? Hundreds of unread mails waiting for us? When was the last time we gave our PC's a house cleaning?

Well, you see what I'm getting at: Hints, ideas, good and bad examples and so on...


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Claes, I agree that most of our efforts tend to be shopfloor focussed. In a previous role I found that conducting a 5S exercise in the office areas led to
a) Vastly improved housekeeping, standardisation & simplification of a good number of office tasks and elimination of a great deal of waste of space
b) It also provided a good lead in to conducting 5S on the shopfloor - a bit of leading by example if you like.



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Well, I wouldn't want to suggest my desk as a best practice for anything...

But, as a very good friend (a computer programmer) once asked, "are you sure that you were not abandoned as a baby and raised by feral programmers?":vfunny:

Set up lots of folders on your computer so you can sort things into logical groups. I have folders for each of my "projects", processes, meeting minutes, etc.

e-mails - go through your e-mails first thing in the morning and clean them up. If it is something you need to do, get it in your planner and leave the e-mail in your in-box. If you are finished with it, delete it. If you don't need anything from the e-mail, delete it. If you need some of the information, either print and file, or save the e-mail electronically into the appropriate "folder".

Try to delete you deleted files regularly. After all, you deleted them, why keep them? The computer folks will love you if you clean your e-mail folders every week.

Handle your sent messages just like the in-box. If you need a record that you sent it, leave it in the sent messages until the requested work has been completed. If you don't need it, delete it. If you need a permenent record, save it electronically and place it in the appropriate file.

I usually make some sort of notation in my planner when I save an e-mail, cuz the first thing I look for when I need to find something is my record of events from my planner.

As far as paper that crosses the desk, read it, and decide what to do with it right away. I use four boxes, instead of the usual 3:
In-box, needs to be looked at.
In-process box, you need to do work on it
To be filed box, um, stuff that needs to be filed
Out-box, things that need to go to someone else.
Once I look at it I decide whether or not it is important and pitch it if it isn't. If I need to keep it, I decide if I can file it, or do I need to work on it, or maybe if I can dump it on someone else. Put it in the appropriate box, and deal with it when you have the chance.

Now, if I could just learn to keep project folders on my desk instead of having 6 sets of reports scattered, where did that stapler go to??????:confused:
Originally posted by Teknow
---X---a bit of leading by example if you like.

Yes, I do like... Good post Teknow. That is exactly what I meant. After all, we're not always exactly role models are we? (At least I'm able to say that I'm constantly trying and have made considerable progress over the years).:) Best of all: It really works.

Steel: I I work acc. to similar lines. :agree: and use the same approach for paper as well as digital media:

Do I need to take any action? If not I either dump it, store it for reference, or (very seldom) save it for later review.

If I have to take action and think that the action will take me two minutes maximum... Well, you guessed it: I just do it...

If I estimate that it will take me more than two minutes I ask myself if I personally should do it. If not, I pass it on.

If I'm supposed to do it myself I either enter it into my schedule or put it on my ToDo list. When the inbox is empty I start working with the ToDo items.

I "inherited" a wall full of binders from my predecessor. I'm now down to about 10% of that stuff. As it turned out, it wasn't worth keeping...



Originally posted by Claes Gefvenberg

  • Our desks? Paper avalanche hazard areas?
  • Bookshelves and cabinets? Are they full of stuff we "may need some day"?
  • Our computers? Can we find what we need without searching for hours? Hundreds of unread mails waiting for us? When was the last time we gave our PC's a house cleaning?
I inherited my position, desk, and office (even though it got moved not to long ago) about a year ago.

I have not had as much time/energy to go thru everything and sort it out as I would like. I unfortunately still have bookshelves, cabinets, and files full of stuff that I probably don't need, or need to put in a proper place.

I personally am also a pack-rat, so its not easy to keep things minimized.

I like Steel Maiden's routine, one day I may be half as organized as that... :frust:

I recently created multiple incoming/inprocess baskets so I could sort different types of paperwork. It has helped some, but I have a long way to go on filing, and disposing of OLD stuff.

My email and computer are a mess as well.

Maybe after we finish our ISO upgrade, I'll have a few extra minutes/hours to clean up better.


Mike S.

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Well I'm not as organized as some of the folks here for sure. But I'm continually (not continuously) improving.;)

My #1 tip for personal organization is very simple: A To Do List. On paper, so I can easily carry it to a meeting if I need to and access it in a second. In my busier days I might have 20 things on it, but it eases my mind to at least know I have a reminder of stuff needing done so it is unlikely to be forgotten, resulting in me catching he11 for it from the boss. And, when I've given new tasks by the boss, I can show him my list and ask him where he wants it to go on the priority list. Sometimes that gets the job assigned to someone else!

Al Dyer

Boy o boy,

Don't get down on yourselves!

An office might be messy or tidy but it comes down to if you know where the info resides. If so, no problem.

If it is a front office receiving customers and visitors, the office should be neat and crisp.

Has anybody in the field ever seen an engineer or a production manager with a tidy desk? Maybe if they decide to come in on the weekend to clear a bit.

I believe in a clear office because I used to have many visitors that asked for info I had and I diddddn't wan't to seem too unorganized.

Atul Khandekar

Office Kaizen

Interesting topic, Claes!

Apart from individual efforts, I think we should also focus on the overall 'Office'. From what I have read, 'Office Kaizen' - applying Lean principles to Office environment - seems to be an interesting proposition. I am thinking about implementing it in my own office. Does anyone here have any experiences to share about it?

ASQ has published a book:Office Kaizen:Transforming Office Operations into a strategic Competitive Advantage
Here is an introductory chapter:
Office Kaizen...

Well.... There are a few things to consider. Top among them is imo: Don't try to do it all at once...

Let the change come slowly, and it will pick up speed by itself as you get rid of the unnecessary stuff.

Use ten or maybe as little as five minutes a day to clear out the bumf before you really start to change things. If you start a change with all the bumf in place you'll just end up moving stuff around. You don't have the time to hurry things like this, but just about everyone can spare ten minutes a day, no matter how busy you are.

I also have to add that I changed nothing right away when I got this job. A full year went by before I had a clear grip on what I could safely get rid of. I did a lot of thinking that year.

It's not really all that different from Kaizen in the workshop...



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Just because I could not pass up this opportunity....the motto here is "A clean desk is the sign of a sick and twisted mind":eek:
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