We may live in a digital age, but much of the concepts from the previous industrial era still carries through.
We have virtual cloud data factories and production lines, just like their physical counterparts for making cars, furniture, aircraft and so on. IT systems management often looks like asset management in other domains.
“Digital” isn’t so new, more a different point of view. Management thinking in non-digital contexts frequently maps onto IT operations and systems management – or at least offers food for thought. The 5S methodology is a case in point.
With quality circles, Kanban, and just-in-time manufacturing, Japan has already stamped past and current production management in ways that few other cultures can match.
So, it might be easy to dismiss 5S as “just another Japanese system for productivity”. Yet a peek into 5S methodology and the concepts driving it can rapidly reveal ideas of interest for IT systems management.
For example, “Dirty, cluttered, or damaged surfaces attract the eye, which spends a fraction of a second trying to pull useful information from them every time we glance past.
Old equipment hides the new equipment from the eye and forces people to ask which to use”, to cite Allen Ward and “Lean Product and Process Development”.
Imagine cluttered IT systems management dashboards, servers running outdated or obsolete software, or users trying to navigate between legacy and bolt-on systems to accomplish business processes.
The 5S’s correspond to five Japanese words that each start with an “s”, and that can also be translated into five English words or phrases: “sort”, “set in order”, “shine”, “standardize”, and “sustain”. Sorting involves the elimination of obstacles, including removing waste and unused tools.
Setting in order is about arranging required tools and materials for easy selection for use. Shining concerns cleaning and safety, including using cleaning as a means of inspection. Standardizing is done on best practices and processes.
Finally, sustaining is about auditing, training, and improvement. It doesn’t take much to see how each “s” applies to good IT system management as well.