KonMari at the Office

“…pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life.” – Marie Kondo

I first heard of the KonMari Method™ from a friend who was decluttering her home after the holidays. Initially I dismissed it as a fad, but soon I began running across more publicity about Marie Kondo and her teachings.

So I decided to check out the hit Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, and it didn’t take me long to get hooked – not to my surprise, considering that I am passionate about some of the same ideas that she teaches her clients. The KonMari approach, while very methodical and at times emotional, is pretty simple. Declutter your surroundings by eliminating the things that don’t “spark joy” and organizing the things that do with the intention of simplifying your home and life.

The Japanese culture gets it. Toyota (pioneers in Lean Six Sigma) follows many of these same principles—and it’s likely not coincidence that Toyota and Kondo both come from Japan. The similarities are astonishing and are the same principles that inspire my team and me to simplify the workplace.

I won’t go as far as asking my clients if something they do or have “sparks joy.” However, I do regularly ask them if something they are doing provides value. And in business, value and joy could be interchangeable.

Lean Six Sigma is all about listening to the voice of the customer to define value (with customers being internal and external an organization). A best practice when determining whether an action in your processes “sparks joy” to your customers is to ask these three questions:

  1. Does it provide value to our clients?
  2. Does it provide value to our organization?
  3. Does it meet a regulatory standard?

If the answer to all three is no, then you really need to think about not doing it.

That brings me to another aspect of the KonMari method: If something doesn’t spark joy, you express gratitude for the joy it once brought, and then you discard it. This seems ridiculous when you’re putting an old sweater in a pile for donations, but this idea of gratitude is so important in adopting a culture of Lean and change in an organization.

So many processes are created because, at one point, the things that were done made sense. These processes evolve over time with fixes that make sense. After a while, the collection of actions within a process may not make sense to an outsider. To someone who lives and breathes it every day, however, it makes total sense because “it’s always been done that way.”

When you want to obtain buy-in for changing the way your organization has always done something, the KonMari method can help: Reflect on the past, express gratitude for how those actions made you the successful organization you are today, and then let it go and move on to an improved way of doing things. (Just as we see in the Netflix series, this can be an emotional action to do that. So expect some emotion within your office as well.)

Then of course, there are the obvious organizational skills that Kondo teaches as she helps her clients declutter. These KonMari skills are very similar to the concept of 5S in Lean Six Sigma. Your workspace should be decluttered for simplicity and standardization. That goes beyond the physical work conditions of your office. It could also be translated to your email inbox and your electronic file storage system.

Contact one of our Lean Six Sigma certified professionals if you’d like to find ways to simply your work life. While our Operational Excellence facilitators won’t teach you how to fold your favorite t-shirts into a tiny origami package, we will teach you how to operate your organization more efficiently.

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