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What is 5S? The Japanese Approach to Organized Efficiency | Video

What is 5S? The Japanese Approach to Organized Efficiency

A tidy project is an efficient project. And that’s why I love 5S. It wasn’t designed for the project environment, but Project Managers can gain a lot from it.

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The Origins of 5S

The 5S idea comes from Japanese motor manufacturing and is now pervasive throughout industry. And it’s an idea we can apply to our Project Management with great advantage.

5S is an approach to creating and maintaining an efficient workspace. It originated with the work of Hiroyuki Hirano, and was rapidly adopted into the Toyota Production System. 5S is now an essential part of Lean Manufacturing and Just in Time processes. And, of course, the principles of Lean have already found their way into Project Management.

What is Lean Project Management?

What is 5S?

5S offers five steps for organizing your workspace so you can work efficiently, effectively, and safely. This system takes its name from five Japanese words that start with the ‘s’ sound – and which can, fortuitously, be translated into English words that also start with an s.

The anglicized Japanese and their English language equivalents:

  1. Seiri – Sort (I prefer Select)
  2. Seiton – Systematize (or Set in order)
  3. Seiso – Shine (or Sweep)
  4. Seiketsu – Standardize
  5. Shitsuke – Sustain

Seiri – Select

Get rid of stuff you don’t need around you. Move the things you do need into close proximity. It’s also about getting rid of broken processes by either fixing them or replacing them with fully functional versions.

Seiton – Systematize

Do you know exactly where things are? Does every process run smoothly and is it convenient to use?

Seiso – Shine

Is everything clean and tidy at the end of a working day or project? The default state should be everything back to where it should be and in its starting state, when you finish a process – ready for next time.

Seiketsu – Standardize

In manufacturing, the same job needs the same equipment. For us, standard tools, templates, and checklists lead to efficiency and avoidance of mistakes.

Check-out our checklists kit.

Project Management Checklists

Shitsuke – Sustain

Here’s where it gets tough. A new project can set up the first 4S. But sustaining it needs discipline. Part of the role of the PMO is to embed 5S and constantly review and improve project processes to keep them optimized for emerging situations.

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What Kit does a Project Manager Need?


I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own. 

Check out the Kit a Project Manager needs

Note that the links are affiliated.

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About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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