iSixSigma

Lean at Work, Lean at Home???

I was asked a very interesting question last week, after I gave a lecture on 5S.

“Do you find that people who are very organized and who apply Lean or Six Sigma principles at work, also apply these same principles at home? Is this linked to a personality trait?”

Now I will confess right off that I am NOT always as organized at home as I am at work. Part of that has to do with the different amounts and types of stresses that are in the work vs home environment, and part of that is related to my particular personality trait or preference if you will. I am (believe it or not) an introvert by nature. Now, my favorite definition of the terms introvert and extrovert is not related to being happy in a crowd – but is relatedto how we recharge our batteries. Think of a Friday evening, when you have just gotten off work and are heading home. It’s been a long, exhausting week with a lot of extra time spent on the job. Do you prefer to recharge by (a) going to a party or event with a lot of excitement and energy in the room, or (b) going home or to a quiet place with soft music, a good book or show, and limited interaction? I’m in the (b) category, so I call myself an “adapted introvert” – most of my work is done with and through people, so at work I’m a driver and always “on” for my audience. At home I’m a low-energy kinda gal.

So back to the question – my answer was that I know many people who are as driven at home as they are at work – color-coded containers, everything in its place, ready for a surprise meeting or out-of-town guests at a moment’s notice. I also know people like myself who are very organized at work but more laid-back at home. Truthfully I don’t know anyone who is unorganized at work, but very organized at home. (But maybe I should get out more!)

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What do you think? Do you agree with my categories, and would you have answered the question differently?

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Comments 6

  1. Michael Marx

    Whether Lean people practice Lean at work and then at home could be based on whether they are conscious about applying Lean or subconscious about it. Let me explain:

    I think there are two kinds of Lean people in the world. Those that learn Lean principles and apply them to processes, and those that just plain think Lean and have never been taught a Lean principle in their lives.

    My wife was born Lean. Whenever I explain a Lean principle to her she says, "duh, that’s just common sense. Doesn’t everybody think that way?" Her dad is the same.

    Since Lean is the way they are wired, they think the same at home and work. Totally organized on both fronts. I believe this inherent Lean is one of the traits that have made them both very successful in whatever they are doing.

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  2. tsperl

    As I always mention while facilitating Lean Awareness Workshop (shameless plug) prior to rewiring our basement my wife and I 5S’d the basement. Armed with 5 of Home Depot’s best shelving units and multiple plastic containers we went to work. So much trash…I mean treasures were liberated we had more than enough room to create the ultimate play area for the kids! Lean is part of home and work for me.

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  3. Peter Zajaczkowski


    Recently I have been searching with my wife for a new house. Every property we saw had a 2-car garage…but funny, the owners kept their cars outside because the garage space was filled with…WASTE. What a turn off!

    When I went home, I realized that my garage and basement space could go through a few "Ss": clean-up, sorting etc. After spending about $100 at Wal-Mart on color bins and a shelve unit, 2 hours of work, the end result is that I reduced space occupied by "stuff" by about….75%! I also threw out 7 contractor bags full of WASTE.

    Bottom line is this: average person is emotionally attached to "waste", thinking there is some value left or assuming the stuff will be needed down the road. But that does not mean items should not be organized, grouped, labeled etc.

    To an average citizen, a LEAN person may appear to be a little pedantic,but as an MBB I stick to what has worked for me for the last 15 years.

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  4. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks to all for your comments. I agree with Michael that there are those who seem to be born thinking lean thoughts – they may not use the lingo but it’s obvious from their approach. Peter has a great example about "learning to see" in our own back yards (or in this case, garages). And Todd’s kids will thank him (someday!). Great comments, thanks.
    –Sue K.

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  5. Bunny Foo Foo

    Lean is a disease that maims and paralyzes. If you try to implement Lean at home, your spouse and kids will abandon you faster than Home Depot abandoned Bob Nardelli. We spent more than 100 years in this country learning to build quality products. Now we spend our time leaning "new" methods to build junk that doesn’t last.

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  6. Lynn Whitney

    What about Lean at Home, even if you don’t practice Lean at work? :)

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