Today’s weather in Michigan reminds me of a SharePoint site I once inherited – blizzard conditions and not a soul to be seen anywhere. Let me explain.
In a past (i.e. corporate) life, my company’s central lean group owned a SharePoint site that housed our entire collection of lean training materials. Anyone at the company could access the site on demand and download whatever training materials they might need. One day I was essentially told, “Congrats, the site is yours to command now. Oh, and by the way, in our company of 40,000 people the site had all of 19 hits last month.” There was obviously a problem.
That SharePoint site, like many others I’ve observed since, was a virtual “snowstorm.” It was a place where files were continually added over a long period of time until it had finally reached a point where it was just too difficult to find anything useful. Does this sound familiar? Do you have a shared drive in your organization full of “stuff” that no one can navigate? Perhaps you even have abandoned shared drives – that dark place where no one dares to go. I wonder what percent of stored data in the world resides in abandoned shared drives and sites like that? But I digress. Back to the problem at hand.
So what to do? We started a 5S initiative - a virtual one, but still true to the thinking behind 5S. Here’s how it went:
GRASPING THE SITUATION & PLANNING: Before calling a meeting to kick off this approach, my co-facilitator and I thought through each step in 5S and created our interpretation for the virtual world. We realized we needed to do some pre-work and create some virtual spaces to allow 5S to occur. Sorting in the physical world is easy: you move some stuff here, move some stuff there. In SharePoint, on the other hand, we needed to create some working folders and rules around their usage. We also needed to identify the best subject-matter experts to invite to participate. This was based partly on what materials were currently on the site and a rough vision of what we wanted the site to become.
SORT (“When in Doubt, Throw it Out!”): Our first step was to determine which materials to keep and which to delete. The site contained countless sub-folders. As a group we reviewed the sub-folders and decided which of us was the best one to “suit up” and venture into each for further examination. The instructions were to delete obsolete or redundant materials, move questionable materials into an ARCHIVE folder, and move good materials into a KEEP folder – all within the existing subfolders. The contents of the archive folders were eventually deleted a year later.
STRAIGHTEN (“A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place”): Next, using a new folder-organization structure we created in a new SharePoint site, all of the KEEP materials were moved to their new destinations. A standard naming nomenclature was also introduced. We took this opportunity to create an Excel inventory of all the training files we were moving. This provided us with an index of what we had and what we needed. For example, after completing this activity we realized we had six presentations on two-card pull systems, but none on pattern scheduling. Now we could be more deliberate and informed on which training materials needed to be created next.
SHINE (“Make it Pretty”): This is the point in the process where we dug into the individual files and cleaned them up. We transitioned all of the training materials to a standard template and checked for consistent usage of terms (Quick set-up? Set-up reduction? Quick changeover?). The status of these updates were tracked in our index.
STANDARDIZE (“Make Abnormalities Easy to See”): Before we even began this project we had agreed that Standardize would be a critical step. Our objective was to design and implement the process by which new materials were submitted for consideration to be added to the site, reviewed and either added or rejected. We created a value stream map as part of the design process along with a definition of roles and work instructions. During the Standardize phase we realized that our new process also needed to have the ability to remove obsolete materials. With this newly defined standard we could insure that the “snowstorm” would not reoccur.
SUSTAIN (“Standardize the Process Audit Discipline”): The final step of our virtual 5S initiative involved the development of a simple control plan periodically reviewing the integrity of our new site and process. Monthly we would review the content of the site and determine if the right materials were in the right locations and whether the standard naming convention was being used. Additionally, we would reflect on the status of our index – was it up to date and were we meeting the timing commitments to generate new materials? Finally, we would reflect on the addition/deletion process itself. How many submissions had there been? What was the lead-time through the process? What were the reasons for rejection? (This was important to drive improvement in the submission process).
In the end this experience taught us that 5S applies to the virtual world just as readily as it does to the physical world. In doing so, we improved our ability to provide our customers with a positive search & retrieval experience and made part of our work easier to do on a day-to-day basis. Give 5S a try next time you find your shared drives are starting to resemble a blizzard – the results will speak for themselves.
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