5S and Eight Wastes - Part I

author: Bryan Lund

Let's start this off on the right foot: 5S is NOT about cleaning. Yet on nearly every 5S audit checklist or task list I see, the primary activity is cleaning. The objective of 5S is NOT to clean. Yet, that is the focus. The purpose of 5S is to involve people and engage them in thinking about their work. However, this concept doesn't blend well with the way we were taught to manage.

In lean we attempt to involve all people in the decision making process. Accompanying this responsibility is the notion that if all people are making business decisions, then those people must be held “accountable”. This word, accountability, embodies dogmatic management nonsense.

Yet, we cling to this rhetoric: empowerment, accountability - as if merely saying the words earnestly will win over the hearts and minds of subordinates. Unsuspecting employees go along with this, more out of fear of reprisal than anything else, cautiously optimistic if not enthusiastic about the whole situation. In the manager’s mind, the “decision” has been made; the rule of accountability has been set with the employee signaling his willingness to give it a go.

And what do we ask these newly empowered and accountable colleagues to do?

Clean up at the end of their shift.

The trouble begins when the plan falls apart. The plan was to solve all kinds of workplace problems, but the same problems still remain. Problem solving skills have not been taught or acquired, goals not set, problems not fully understood and the manager holds the employee “accountable” for his actions: mostly for not cleaning their area, or making their production numbers. The employee is frustrated and now mistrusts future initiatives, as he knows that the manager will hold him accountable for the manager’s poor ability to develop the people and the system.

This is a major sore point for any improvement initiative, this problem of mutual trust and respect. The role of accountability must be reversed when we talk about continuous proves improvement. It is the role of the manager to lead the way; the process is a reflection of his willingness to allow it to be in its current state. Only then can mutual accountability be realized. Regardless of the program or approach used their must be a willingness to focus on the process and make mistakes. The environment must be a “no blame zone”. When we see mistakes, we can work together to fix them. In continuous improvement, where problems are constantly uncovered, we must overcome the natural reflex of tuning out our environment, rife with problems, and tackle those problems each and every day. There are two important concepts that help people combat the forces of complacency and wage an all out war against waste.

Unfortunately, modern management theory has diluted these concepts down to such meaningless jargon that many people write these off as a fad: 5S and “The Eight Wastes”. In the next several posts, I will illustrate how 5S has become widely viewed as a nationwide housekeeping campaign and how this paradigm is destroying lean initiatives.

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At October 4, 2009 at 10:17 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


I like this post very much. It help me to solve some my work under my director’s requirements.

Apart from that, below article also is the same meaning

5S audit

Tks again and nice keep posting


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