5S for online communities

What do Japanese cards, public health and online communities have in common?

One of my favourite things about writing a blog is the way it helps you discover new things.  Next comes the warm glow you get whenever someone shares a post or mentions your work.

So, it’s great when you get credited for inspiring another great blog and get to discover something new in the process.

I discovered What’s the PONT – a blog about learning (my favourite sort) – last weekend after its author wrote this post about Getting beyond the 1% rule – Intrinsic motivation and online communities.  It’s a highly thoughtful look at online participation which was good enough to reference a couple of articles from our blog here at Sponge.

After popping over to have a look, I got sucked in and ended up finding a post – way back near the beginning of the blog – about 5S methodology.

I’ve come across the 4P’s and, indeed, the 3 R’s but 5S was a new discovery.

5S methodology is based on a system that originated in Japan that used 5 ‘S’ words (which have now been transliterated into English) to provide a framework for workplace organisation that’s designed to produce maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

It consists of:

Seiri – Sorting

Seiton – Stabilizing or straightening out

Seiso – Sweeping or shining

Seiketsu – Standardizing

Shitsuke – Sustaining

5S came to life in Japan, developed by Hiroyunki Hirano, and had its roots in Japanese automobile industry.  These days, it’s found a home in public services, and hospitals in particular – which is what prompted What the Pont to write about it.

It’s easy to see the appeal of 5S for any organisation where productivity, quality and health and safety matter but it’s also surprisingly easy to take 5S to heart as a rulebook for community management.

So, here goes…

Seiri – Sorting

This one is all about eliminating unnecessary parts, getting rid of anything that is not absolutely essential.  Online communities live and breathe by the content within them but sometimes it’s not as easy as it should be to get to the crux of the issue.  If you invite people to contribute to your community make sure you provide some way of rating their content, helping good posts to rise to the top of the pile and bad ones to slide to the bottom.  The rate at which information is growing means that curation is just as important as generation when it comes to content – and it’s no different for User Generated Content (UGC) in online communities.

Seiton – Stabilizing or straightening out

Wikipedia has this to say:

“There should be a place for everything and everything should be in its place. The place for each item should be clearly indicated.”

Good signposting is crucial to keeping UGC useful and usable.  UGC works best when the people who want information can find that information easily and the people who want to contribute know exactly where the best place to do so is… so get straightening out…

Seiso – Sweeping or shining

In a hospital, this would mean cleaning up spills, fixing leaks and generally putting back everything you’ve used during the course of the day.  The key point is that:

“Maintaining cleanliness should be part of the daily work – not an occasional activity initiated when things get too messy.”

And so it should be online.  If you spend a few minutes each day replying to posts, engaging with users and removing poor content you’ll find it ten times easier to stay on top of a your role as a community manager.

Seiketsu – Standardizing

According to 5S, work practices should be consistent and standardized and everyone should know their responsibilities and how to comply with them.

This is what large organisations should aspire to when they experiment with social media.  Yes, it’s important to let employees or members develop their own voice, but if you have any sort of brand to protect – and most of us, even individuals, do – you need to lay out some ground rules first, and put some effort into making sure people follow them.

Shitsuke – Sustaining

And last, but not least, maintain and review standards.  Perhaps the most important of all for a #cmgr  – after all, analysis and self-improvement are integral parts of the role….

And that’s the focus of this week’s next post which features a Q&A with Nimble community manager, Garick Chan – about what it takes to succeed.  So, not one, but two posts this week that come straight from our own community… don’t wait to get in touch if you’d like to suggest a feature or offer some views, we’d love to hear from you.

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2 Responses to 5S for online communities

  1. Chris Bolton says:

    Thanks Hazel,
    I appreciate your comments on the 5s and the 1% post.
    It’s a while since I wrote about 5s and its prompted me to have a think again.
    Applying the 5s principles to online communities is a very useful and insightful approach, something I’ll be recommending.
    Thanks again,

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