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The Snowstorm on Your Server

by Eric Ethington
April 6, 2016

The Snowstorm on Your Server

by Eric Ethington
April 6, 2016 | Comments (15)

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.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Keywords:  5s,  applying lean,  lean IT,  waste
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15 Comments | Post a Comment
Ken Hunt April 06, 2016
1 Person AGREES with this comment

Thanks Eric,

This a huge opportunity that so many miss. I have consulted server workshops that have resulted in a saving of search times for folders and files of over 90%. The key is maintaining the discipline and not let people revert to the "old way" or their comfort zone.



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David Sotropa April 06, 2016
1 Person AGREES with this reply

Good post. It drives me nuts the amount of time we waste searching in shared workgroup or SharePoint folders.

One idea I'd like to propose is to not use folder structures in SharePoint. Best practice in SharePoint is to only use multiple folders if there is a need to restrict access to a particular folder. Otherwise, use only one folder.

One of the key features in SharePoint libraries is to use columns to classify files. For example, let's say you can't decide whether to create folders by date or by client. If you use columns, you can do both. You tag a file with the client name and (say) the year, and then you can find stuff by either criteria. Also, if you make such columns mandatory, the odds of keeping stuff well structured goes up exponentially. Then, you can create views that group files first by date (year) and then by client and vice versa. It essentially allows you to keep a single file in multiple "folders". Very powerful stuff.

The other SharePoint specific suggestion is to turn on versioning in libraries. I can't stand it when you go into a folder and see ABC Presentation - version 1, ABC Presentation - version 2... If you turn on versioniong, you always have access to previous versions and the only one you see is the most up to date version.

The toughest thing of all in 5S in cyberspace is Sustain. However, if you make it mandatory to tag files with meaningful metdata, it makes it much more challengning for folks to mess it up.



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Eric Ethington April 11, 2016

David,

One countermeasure we grew into, and I can't take credit for this, is we "fooled" SharePoint into allowing a graphical interface.  Briefly, most all of our users would come to the site after initiating an improvement activity and having value stream mapped the process.  They had "pain points" or kaizen bursts on certain areas of their maps, but often didn't know even what topic to search for.  We had an analyst in our group that KNEW SharePoint.  She created a generic value stream map and somehow hid buttons around the map.  If you had a kaizen burst on YOUR map between two process boxes you would click in that general area on the SharePoint map and it would take you to topics related to pull systems, inventory control, etc.  The clunky way we grouped these topics was a folder structure, and yes, we had to expend extra energy to keep it maintained.

Eric



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kevin kobett April 06, 2016
1 Person AGREES with this comment

How many hits per month now?



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kevin kobett April 08, 2016

Just curious why someone would click helpful, interesting, inspiring or accurate?

The post highlights an epic failure. 40,000 employees and 19 hits in a month. Most likely it is not 19 different employees. Could be one employee looking 19 times. 

These posts are edited by LEI so it was a team effort. I am not picking on one person. It is the whole lean process that's the failure.



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Ken Hunt April 08, 2016
1 Person AGREES with this reply

The whole Lean process is a failure? Words fail me......



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kevin kobett April 08, 2016

Ken,

Thanks for the opportunity for me to continue. The first task was to find out who visited the training site 19 times. This is/are the training site's customers. Lean should be focused on adding value to customers. No mention of this in the post. There is a possibility there is a sensei employed by the company. This search of the site's customers could have had great benfits to the company.

I have read every post. The same topics are covered. You could make an argument that this post is an incomplete PDCA cycle. Some planning and doing was completed. What happened to the checking and adjusting? Adding the number of hits after the site's renovation was crucial to this post. You could make an arguement the process was not properly mapped.

Not answering my question, How many hits per month now?, is inexcusable. Sometimes a lean practioner has to say "I do not know?"

Lean will continue to be a failure until an honest feedback is given. You do ne one any favors when every comment is "This is wonderful." 



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Ken Hunt April 08, 2016
1 Person AGREES with this reply

And making a comment that Lean has been and will continue to be a failure is ignoring the many success stories out there. Besides, even if the desired results are not achieved the first time, learning takes place.That is far from failure.



Eric Ethington April 10, 2016

Kevin,

Sorry for the delay.  See below.  Since this is a former employer I had to reach out to my former colleagues and confirm the number, as I did not take any company-specific files with me when I left.



kevin kobett April 08, 2016

I would like to hear about these many lean success stories. Please be specific as I am collecting lean success stories for children.

Until children are trained, lean will continue to be a failure.



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Ken Hunt April 08, 2016

Let's see...Wiremold, Toyota, Boeing, Virginia Mason..........



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kevin kobett April 08, 2016

"Although the studies described in The Machine That Changed the World showed that lean was a significantly more efficient and effective way to run a manufacturing plant, a large survey conducted by Industry Week in 2007 found that only 2 percent of companies that have a lean program achieved their anticipated results. More recently, the Shingo Prize committee, which gives awards for excellence in lean manufacturing, went back to past winners and found that many had not sustained their progress after winning the award."

 

Forbes 2011



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Eric Ethington April 10, 2016

To answer the original question posted by Kevin - we increased to about 1250 per month, which were primarily members of the project teams working with continuous improvement leaders around the company.  Not the ideal audience, but our maturity level at the time still relied on CI "specialists".  There is a certain inertia associated with increasing the hits on an improved data-holding site.  Once it has an image it is difficult to change.  And that is an entirely different problem-solve.



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kevin kobett April 10, 2016

Eric,

I am very impressed by the numbers and your demeanor. I gave you a little attitude and you remained calm. Today I have a little more hope for the future of lean.

Well done!

Thanks.



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Lev Ono April 11, 2016

Very interesting to think of "virtual 5S". Was the IT department involved or was it all driven by the user team?



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