Tag Archives: project management

5S Your Room Please


For those of us in the Process Improvement realm, we are very familiar with 5S (yes I know many people often add the 6th S for safety).  My first encounter with 5S occurred as a kid getting paid to work weekends (i.e. allowance) cleaning up the shop while my dad was working.  It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time.  I didn’t know I was following a tried and true method for improving efficiency in the work place.  I was simply doing what my father asked so that we could go to the candy shop, sporting goods store, or pet shop on our way home.  However, 5s launched my career as a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt long before I knew what I was doing.

This exposure to 5S and following a process to accomplish a goal set the foundation for process improvement and quality management for my entire life.

  • As a student, I had a place for everything and everything had its place.  Before I started any assignment I would be sure that I had everything I needed to get the job done before I ever got started, snack included.
  • As an athlete (soccer goalkeeper), I prepared meticulously, shining my cleats, taking care of my gloves before and after practice, putting air in my soccer ball, making sure I had all of my equipment packed before practice/games (as well as back-ups), and ensuring my water bottle was clean, full and cold.
  • As a coach, I ensured I had a practice plan, I had the equipment ready to run my sessions, I made sure I had a backup plan (in case something unexpected happened), and I expected excellence in preparation by my players.
  • As a business professional, I utilize all of the things that I mentioned above to make sure that I can get the most out of my day.  But, it all starts with having a clean and organized work space and ensuring that there is a place for everything and that everything has its place.

Now I know that everything I mentioned above doesn’t necessarily align directly with 5s. So, with a nod of deference to the Japanese I will do a quick review.


What is 5S?

5S ensures work spaces are kept clean and organized to form the foundation of a Lean office. It involves five steps:

  1. Sort – Sorting through the contents of an area and removing unnecessary items
  2. Set in Order –  Arranging necessary items for easy and efficient access
  3. Shine – Keeping everything clean as a way to ensure that the work area is always in a condition to support claims processing
  4. Standardize  – Creating standard, visual guidelines for keeping the work area organized, orderly and clean
  5. Sustain – Educating, communicating, and auditing to ensure everyone follows the 5S standards

When following the simple steps of 5S we find that we get more done by creating a cleaner, more organized work environment, enabling faster and easier access to the computers, references, work products, and office material they needed to accomplish work. The anticipated benefits include:

  1. The ability to identify and eliminate waste
  2. Standardized work station setup for each position
  3. Decreased document retrieval times
  4. Reduced clutter
  5. Improved employee health and safety

So what is the point? 

The point is, whether we are a parent, a coach, or an employer/manager, 5S should be part of our approach to helping anyone we advise.  We are not only helping them better prepare for the task at hand but, we are helping them prepare for the bigger things in life that will eventually arise.

Happy Leaning,

The Common Sensei

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Filed under efficiency, Human Performance, Lean Six Sigma

Low Cost Technically Incapable


In a world where every penny should count, where we are told continuously how bad the economy is, do we really know what we are getting when we bring in outside help?  I can identify numerous types of consultancies that exist in the market.  However, there are two major types that seem to be pressing my buttons recently.

The first type of consultancy is far more staff augmentation then advisory support.  These companies are nearly incapable of providing any value to their customer other than eliminating busy work.  These companies are growing at a rapid pace in the Federal Government due to the trend toward Low Cost, Technically Acceptable contracts.  Many of these companies are so low cost and poorly managed that they can hardly hold on to staff long enough to even get properly acclimated to their jobs.  Because of the Governments growing reliance on this type of Contractor we have seen a growing presence of the second type of consultancy.

The second type of consultancy is the Advisory Firm (i.e. Think Tanks or Federally Funded Research and Development Centers).  These organizations run on the motto that we are XXXXX and we are here to help.  Many of these organizations are considered not for profit however, they have rates that often double or triple their counterparts in the first group.  Moreover, they are extremely good at making recommendations and writing reports without ever delivering a single quantifiable result.  They create work for themselves by identifying gaps in Government Processes and Programs, followed by making a recommendation that includes adding more staff to the project, then expecting someone else to deliver the results that they recommended.

With these two types of companies combined we have built ourselves a whole new platform by which to demonstrate incompetence.  We lean on the low cost technically incapable companies to deliver on the promises made by the overpriced non-producers.

So, where do we go from here?  The answer isn’t as hard as it seems.  There are numerous great consultancies around the world.  These companies are reasonably priced and have renowned delivery capabilities.  They have the ability to identify problems, develop and deliver solutions all while creating a sustainable environment where the organization will be set up for long term success.

How do we get there from here?

  • Understand your needs or hire someone to help you identify those needs.  If you hire someone to help you define your needs, they shouldn’t be the ones doing the follow on work.
  • Clearly define your needs in a clearly written Performance Work Statement (PWS)
  • Identify performance metrics/goals that can be attained and will indicate the successful completion of the project/program/effort
  • Hire the people who have proven that they can do the work
  • Award work based on:
    1. Response to PWS (what they can do for you)
    2. Verified Past Performance (with references)
    3. Key Personnel (people who will be contractually bound to do the work)
    4. Price

Beyond hiring the right people to execute on the work that really needs to be done, be sure that any time you bring in contractors to provide assistance, build in a method to hold them accountable for delivery of specific products or services that clearly demonstrate a return on your investment.

Happy Leaning,

The Common Sensei

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Filed under common sense, consulting, efficiency, government consulting