Good housekeeping is an essential aspect of Project Management, especially during time-limited projects where being organised and working efficiently can save significant time. There are many ways in which you can organise your processes.

This article will be looking at one of the most popular methods, the 5S Methodology.

Japanese Methodology of 5S

Henry Ford originally developed what we now know as the 5S methodology in 1972 as the CANDO programme. It was Hiroyuki Hirano however, who popularised it as the Japanese 5S in 1980.

Initially intended for use in the physical workplace, 5S is a lean management technique that is aimed at optimising the workplace and improving the efficiency of work performance, and was a fundamental tool in implementing Total Quality Management.

Practitioners have however, started to use the method to improve thinking and non-physical processes.

What are the 5S’?

The five steps listed below represent a systematic method of achieving good housekeeping.

Seiri – Sort

Firstly, you should identify what is necessary and unnecessary. Items can be physical, such as broken equipment or redundant materials, or non-physical, such as out-of-date files on your network and information that you no longer use.

Enlist the help of your team members to identify which items are needed and classify them by frequency of use. If there are items which can’t be classified then place them in a holding area for team members outside of the process to review.

This should also extend to your software. Do you have unused programmes? Are team members and departments using different software? Sorting out your software needs will reduce costs, increase available storage space and make your organisation more effective.

Seiton – Straighten

Seiton is the embodiment of the saying, “A place for everything, and everything in it’s place”

Now that you have sorted your resources and removed waste you can put them in order.

It can be frustrating, not to mention a significant waste of time, searching for items that haven’t been stored in an orderly fashion. Resources should therefore be clearly labelled and stored in an appropriate place where they can be found at any time, by any one.

Physical resources that are used often should be kept close by, whilst less used items can be stored farther away which will save time and optimise your workflow.

In the virtual environment, you should take care to save files in appropriate, distinguishable folders, with appropriate names, using dates where applicable.

Seiso – Shine

Now your workplace is ordered efficiently you can give it a good clean! This should be a regular, almost daily event, and will enable you to see, at a glance, any signs of wear and tear to vital machinery and tools.

The management of your project still requires regular maintenance, despite not showing the same physical signs of wear and tear. Clean your files regularly to ensure that you only keep the latest version of documents, and ensure that your PC regularly updates to the latest software versions. Using old versions leave your network vulnerable to security and data threats, which in turn can lead to loss of project information and GDPR breaches.

Seiketsu – Standardise

Once steps 1-3 have been put into place, you should create a standardised procedure to ensure that you don’t return to bad habits and inefficient working practices.

This will come as a natural process to Project Managers who follow methodologies that involve standardising processes to make them more efficient.

Having a standard in place will serve as best practice, and will remove uncertainty amongst your team. It should be communicated in written format, and it is recommended that checklists be created to help team members perform all of the steps correctly.

This is a classic use of project and PMO frameworks, like those available in the PM Majik Member’s Area.

Shitsuke – Sustain

Lastly, the new processes and standards need to be sustained. This can be achieved by building the 5S process into performance evaluation. It is important to remember however that processes can evolve over time and so 5S should be modified appropriately, and changes communicated to team members.

Project review or sprint meetings are a good place to assess the adherence to standards and the success of the 5S process.

Why choose 5S?

It may require time, effort and capital in the beginning, but 5S is a simple method to put into action and requires little formal training. It also provides a worthwhile return as work will be completed more efficiently, limiting delays and reducing completion time.