Lean in the Bathroom? Not Likely!

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    I like the idea of using the bathroom as a tool to teach lean. You set a standard, you make the work easy, you train people to the standard and you hold each other accountable. However, when I tried this in my factory, it got ugly fast!

    • “You can’t make people clean the bathroom, they’ll quit!”
    • “There is no sense setting a standard you can’t enforce, and there is no way to enforce standards in a bathroom!”
    • “I don’t want anything to do with this, and I won’t allow my people to participate in this in any way!”
    • “Dirty bathrooms are a contractor problem!”
    • “Those bathrooms are disgusting. I put on gloves before I step foot in there.”

    Meanwhile, the bathrooms have no gloves, no plungers, no toilet brushes, no backup toilet paper, no idea where to get supplies or who to go to if there is a problem, plus there is a bunch of non-bathroom cleaning junk slapped into an empty stall. I’m starting to understand why we have problems in so many other areas–it’s the same inability to set and maintain a standard.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

    Have any of you found this extreme resistance to having clean bathroom–or in broader terms–setting and maintaining a standard?

    • This topic was modified 2 years, 6 months ago by Ahiru-san.
    • This topic was modified 2 years, 6 months ago by Katie Barry.

    Michael Cyger

    I’m sorry that your training example didn’t work out the way you had planned!

    Your example reminded me of a lean factory tour video I saw on Youtube recently by Paul Akers, the founder and president of FastCap, based in Ferndale, WA.

    Hope the tour gives you some food for thought for your organization.



    It sounds like you posed a challenge to improve something that was outside their area of responsibility and no one, understandably, wanted to become responsible.  As customers/users of the bathrooms you can identify defects and report them to those responsible but you don’t control their processes so you can’t improve them.  A training exercise should use a scenario where participants can identify with the process to be improved.


    Eva Jarlsdotter

    I believe the toilets can be a real challenge and a area of conflict in many places – for instances schools, where kids sometimes don’t want to go to the toilet because they are dirty, even if they really need they wait until they get home, and they can’t concentrate in the classroom, and as a consequence don’t learn so much as they could have. So I believe your exercise is important, however one need be clear with the responsibilities. The cleaners should be really aware of the standard, and the users should know that they should always leave the toilet in the standard they want to find it. So agree on standards for everyone is important. It is about respect.

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