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What techniques have you used to encourage senior stakeholders to allow the use of Visual Management within the business when they are against this practice? I work in a legal, very traditional archaic industry and seniors do not like items on the walls and want clear desks. What would you recommend to get them onboard?

It helps to get an understanding of the resistance first. Often we assume general resistance without finding out the specific reasons for resistance and miss out on potentially solvable issues. 5S doesn’t necessarily mean there are signs on the wall. There may be options for more subtle visuals that are in line with their ideas of what the workspace should look like. It might be helpful to start with a digital 5S to establish order on shared drives first.

The success of a more modest 5S could become a “proof-of-concept” that helps you “sell” the idea as a whole. You may also try using the 5S Assessment Tools in order to get the their input as well as the input of others. Then you’ll have a baseline of how easy it is to operate within the work space. I hope that helps!

Elisabeth Swan

Elisabeth is a Managing Partner at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. For over 25 years, she's helped leading organizations like Amazon, Charles Schwab and Starwood Hotels & Resorts build problem-solving muscles with Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.