Systems for ‘Slobs’
Eighteen years ago I had an epiphany. I read a particular book one night, that—although it didn’t give me all the solutions for how to organize my business—told me a true story about a hotel that had the most amazing service I had ever heard about.
I was, admittedly, a bit of a SLOB back then—my desk and office consistently looked like the aftermath of a tornado, and I had no clue how to keep it clean.
You see, I’m by nature THAT guy—the one who leaves a trail of tools all over the house and yard, if working on a home project; the guy who always has Starbuck’s coffee cups and a whole lot of other unnecessary “stuff” piling up in the back of my SUV. Today, I noticed there was a garden rake in my back seat that had been there for over a week.
You see my car is my last holdout for organizing—by systemizing—my life. Guess it helps to remind me I’m still all too human, in case anyone might suspect otherwise.
The reason I had to change my sloppy ways is that it was HURTING my business. I couldn’t ask my employees to keep their work areas clean and neat, when I had papers piled up all around my desk. In fact, by desk was SO piled at times, I had no clear area to work.
I was a slob, and an example to others that they could be “slobs,” too, even as I spent a good deal of time telling them to “pick up things,” or being frustrated when tools—or worse, job orders—were lost in those piles.
I remember asking one particular employee how they kept their desk clean and, after hearing the answer, I said, “That will never work for me.” You see, I had recognized the ORDER in that employee’s work area, but couldn’t see past my own bad habits to learn better ones. I would just come in on a Saturday and spend the whole day cleaning my office, grumbling that I had to waste a day off. Unfortunately, by Tuesday of the next week, it was right back to Chaosville!
My EPIPHANY? If you want to have a clean and organized office and desk, it must be systemized! It works the same way as using Quality Control Systems to eliminate errors in a company. I went into great detail in my book (“System Busters: How to Stop Them In Your Business”) about how I put the 100-percent System of Cleanliness into every area of our company—every office, every desk, EVERY work area.
About two years ago, while speaking at a Continual Improvement Conference in Lexington, KY, I was able to visit a Toyota manufacturing plant. I was amazed when the tour guide showed us how the facility had implemented the “5S” system—not only in the plant, but at every desk in the production management areas. The company had gotten down even to the smallest details, just as I had done many years earlier.
Toyota actually went a tad farther, by marking or taping squares on desks to indicate where a stapler was to be kept when not in use, consistently! Its staff often work in three shifts, and office workers may share a desk with two or more other people. The marks reminded workers to put things back in place for the next shift—it works.
Now, when some people visit our company they have been known to comment, “Philip must be a clean-freak. How does he keep his office so clean?”
Obviously, they don’t know that I am, as I said, by nature a “slob”—and they have never ridden in my un-systemized SUV with me to get a cup of Starbucks!
The story in that book I told you about at the beginning of this blog had instantly prompted an entire vision for my operation. I wanted to see what a totally systemized business would look like—how it would function and how it would affect our customer service and, particularly, profitability. I had personally never seen such a business, but over the next 10 years, I watched it become a reality all around me. Systemization made all the difference!
Did I mention? Great systems work!
Philip Beyer, founder/president of Ebiz Products LLC and founder of Beyer Printing Inc. in Nashville Tenn., is a chronic entrepreneur, business systems analyst and consultant. Author of "System Busters: How to Stop Them in Your Business" and recipient of an InterTech Technology Award for the design and development of System100 business process management software. Beyer speaks to business owners across the country on how to bring lean, sustainable order to their businesses. Contact him at (615) 425-2652.