Tag Archives: waste reduction

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

GAO Report Identifies Billions in Waste


Lean Six Sigma Experts Pounce On New GAO Report

Atlanta, GA – According to the Government Accounting Agency’s 2012 annual report, released this week, tens of billions of dollars are wasted every year due to unnecessary duplication, overlaps, and just plain waste in the Federal Government.   Sen. Tom Coburn R-OK estimates that these wastes cost taxpayers as much as $100 Billion Dollars every year.

“This is not news to Effective Government Now, the Coalition of Lean Six Sigma professionals who came together in the Fall of 2011 at the invitation of Speaker Newt Gingrich, specifically to work with Newt’s vision that reducing the cost and size of government can be done thoughtfully with common private sector business applications.  We are not limited only to the politically charged choices of raising taxes or slashing needed services”, said Effective Government Now Chairman Jack Merritt.

Last Summer Newt said:

“There are a number of sophisticated management systems that create more productive, more effective patterns of work.

One of those systems is Lean Six Sigma.

If applied across the entire federal government, some estimate it could save $500 billion a year or $5 trillion over a ten-year period. By comparison, the [then] newly created “Super Committee” is [was] merely trying to save $1.5 trillion.

A properly focused Lean Six Sigma effort could reorient government to act in ways that would help balance the budget, grow our economy, accelerate job creation, and make America the most competitive country in the world.

To achieve this future, it will require us to work together to educate the American people, the news media and our elected officials, and win the argument for smaller, leaner, and more effective government.”

Speaker Gingrich had the right ideas nine months ago, and the GAO has just validated his foresight.  Republican Study Committee Jim Jordan pointed out that “… 11 different agencies run 94 different programs to encourage ‘green building’” and “13 agencies operate 209 different STEM education programs.”  The GAO highlighted 51 areas and 130 recommended actions.

The Effective Government Now Coalition believes that neither the Congress nor the President has acted responsibly to address the rampant waste in our government.  Recovery must be driven by both the Executive Branch and Congress.  Both must work together to set priorities and measure results, while holding the Departments and Agencies responsible with Lean Six Sigma.  This will require bold and experienced leadership.  We believe that Speaker Newt Gingrich is the right person, with the right vision, and the best track record to drive this necessary collaboration to fundamentally change the way our federal government spends and, in the future, saves money.

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Filed under efficiency, government consulting, Lean Six Sigma