Sunday, January 07, 2007

Tidy tape exercise 'is madness'

You heard of red tape. Here is the black tape version ...

"Black tape has been put on civil servants' desks to show them where to put their pens.

The pilot exercise at National Insurance offices in Longbenton, North Tyneside, is part of a UK-drive to encourage staff to tidy their desks.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union claimed the scheme was costing £7.4m nationally and branded it "demeaning" and "demoralising".

HM Revenue and Customs said it was in line with workstation training.

The exercise is part of the Lean programme, brought in by consultants Unipart, which has already seen public sector workers told to clear their desks of personal items.

The customs spokesman said: "Part of the Lean processing is to clear the workplace and only keep essential items to hand.

"This is in line with the workstation ergonomics training that all our staff receive and complies with the display screen equipment regulations (2002).

"The markers on desks are used to demonstrate that it is much better to work in a tidy work environment where everything has its place.

"Staff involved have confirmed they prefer the tidier workspace."    (Continued via BBC NEWS)    [Usability Resources]

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Straight bananas and bent cucumbers

There’s nothing the media and dare I say it bloggers too like better than “the world’s gone mad” stories. There’s also another journalistic truism about never letting the facts get in the way of a good story.

The taped up civil servants’ desks is a great example. By reducing to absurdity, everyone missed the point of lean working which has led to Toyota, becoming the world’s most successful motor manufacturer.

Lean isn’t about tidy desks but the mindset that goes behind them. Everyone is familiar with mechanics putting tools back on a peg board.

They do that so they don’t waste time hunting for the tool the next time they need it. The lean principle about being tidy and ready for work is simply applied commonsense and no, Unipart never recommended putting tape round items on desks.

Keeping work stations business-like is especially relevant in hot desking or shift-working but applies anywhere. But that’s just a tiny part of thinking lean.

Lean is really about getting the people who do the work to suggest continuous improvements to how they work, have them reviewed by their workmates in a structured way which tests new ideas rigorously and have a system which allows improvements to be cascaded rapidly.

It kills command and control management as in lean it is the team that does the work which decides how the work gets done.

To get lean right you need that culture as well as the tools and techniques. It’s not easy but Unipart is way ahead of the field after 20 years refinement.

Still that probably would not make such a good media soundbite! But don’t take our/my word for it have a look at what an independent academic says at

6:59 AM  

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