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Watch this free 1-hour introductory webinar to learn how to use powerful visual management tools to promote positive change in your organization.

Webinar Level

  • Introductory


  • What Visual Management is all about
  • Why we need Visual Management
  • How to conduct a 5S
  • What 5S and Visual Management look like

Webinar Slides

Q&As From the Webinar

Webinar Transcript

Tracy: Hello and welcome to’s webinar. This is a webinar series that we’ve really created for you, the learner community, and we’re using these webinars to make it easy to use tools and concepts of Lean Six Sigma.

Today’s webinar I’m very excited about. It’s called Harnessing the Power of 5S and Visual Management. So thanks for joining us today. We’re really excited about this topic and it’s definitely something that a lot of organizations and people use.

So let’s do some introductions. I am Tracy O’Rourke and I’m the VP of Content Development at And I am proud to present our presenter today which is – she is also a VP of Content Development, my colleague, the wonderfully talented and consummately knowledgeable, Elisabeth Swan. Woohoo!

Elisabeth is a Master Black Belt for almost 25 years and she has helped lots of leading organizations like Amazon, Charles Schwab, Target, Volvo, Alberta Health Services, Starwood Hotels, and many other successful organizations that apply Lean Six Sigma.

She is a very dynamic presenter as you will see and she has the ability to simplify complicated concepts in a way that is easy to understand and fun.

How To Interact

So, just to cover a few things before we get started. First of all, during the presentation, all attendees will be in listen-only mode because we have quite a few people that signed up for this webinar and we want to make sure that we can get through the webinar for everyone. There will be a Q&A session following the presentation. You do not have to wait until the end if you have a question. Just type it in the chat window or what we call the question window and we will be answering those anyway at the end.

And we will also be asking you to participate in some of the polls or in some polls. And the other thing to think about too is if we don’t answer your question during the webinar, we will be posting all answers to all questions after the webinar on our website.

You will also be able to see and download this webinar. That’s probably like the number one question we get sometimes is, “Can we have the slides?” So yes, you can download this webinar and it is recorded in case your buddy is at work and missed the webinar. They can actually view the recording and listen to the recording.

Let’s Interact!

So, our first interactive session is to find out where are you from. This is one of the most exciting ones for me because we get to see who is calling in and where are you from because we have people from all over the world. So if you could please, type where you’re from, what city, what state, or what country in the question window so we can see everybody is coming from.

All right. So, we have Lagos, Nigeria. Russia. Fort Myers, Florida. Cork, Ireland. I’ve been there. Mumbai, India. Dallas, Texas. Been there too. Boulder City, Nevada. We also have Albuquerque. Tallahassee, Florida. Redding, California. Raleigh, North Carolina. St. Louis, Missouri. Moscow. Kingston, Jamaica. Hendersonville, Tennessee. Beverly, Massachusetts. Cleveland, Oregon. Lots of different states. Grantham, UK. Illinois. Just Europe. Thank you.

And let’s see. Dorset, UK. Liverpool, England. Poland. The Philippines. Honduras. Costa Rica. And wow! We got lots of people from lots of different places. Oh, San Diego, California too. Very nice. That’s where I’m from.

Elisabeth: Your hometown.

Tracy: My hometown.

Elisabeth: Thank you, Tracy. Thank you for the warm introduction. I’m happy to be here with all of you. You guys are from all over the world. Thanks for joining us. As Tracy said earlier, we’re both been with the since its inception and we’ve been founded on a couple of guiding principles.

We assume that it’s our job to simplify complex concepts. We don’t think confusing you is where it’s at. We think the key to effective training is making it practical, accessible, and enjoyable. So we’ve made it our mission to transform how people learn about Lean Six Sigma and that’s what we’re going to do – continue with today. We based all of our training at a place called The Bahama Bistro. It’s a fictional restaurant. So we figured if you have a case study, why not make it in a beautiful place.

And finally, we exist to make it easy for you to build your problem-solving muscles. And we’re going to continue with that today here with you and we’ve done that with a lot of different folks. And let’s take a look at some of those.

We’ve Helped People From…

We’ve got Lenovo, Disney. So we’ve got some real combination of bricks and mortar and online diverse industries. We’ve got healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, state, city, state government.

Why? Because Lean Six Sigma is about solving problems. And if you’ve got a company then you’ve got problems. And all organizations need people that are good at problem-solving. So anybody looking to strengthen and build problem-solving muscles, Lean Six Sigma is going to help you.

Today’s Agenda

So let’s do more on benefits as we go. And let’s get into today’s agenda. So we’re going to tackle visual management, the basics guiding principles of visual management and then we’re going to discuss different uses, why and how do we use visual management. And then we’re going to do a deep dive on the tool that makes great use of visual management, and that is 5S. So we’re going to do some instruction on 5S just to give you guys the basics.

What is Visual Management?

And the first question is, what is visual management? So the primary purpose of visual management is to be able to understand the current situation instantaneously. And visual management is called visual management, visual controls. There’s a Japanese term, “mieruka.” It means visualization.

Quick Poll

So right off the bat, what we’d like to get is an idea from you on how you use visual management. So we’re going to launch our first poll and Tracy is going to tell us what we find out. So I’m going to launch this. All right. And go ahead and bring that in.

So go ahead, Tracy.

Tracy: Yes. So we can wait for our participants to put the poll choices in. I’ve seen a lot of visual management uses and it’s really exciting. You can really tell how lean an organization is by how much visual management they have. So I think that’s really telling even just walking into an organization once you can get a feel for how they’re using visual management, which is pretty cool.

Elisabeth: That’s true actually. It’s right there in front of you. And it’s also just underlying a whole series of classic lean tools if you think about standard work, cell design, kanban, supermarkets. They all rely on visual management.

Tracy: Absolutely. So it looks like we have 78% of the people or actually coming up on 80% of the people that have actually put their votes in.

Elisabeth: So let’s do the 80-20 rule, Tracy. I’m going to close this now and share.

Tracy: Alright. Well, here’s what’s interesting. It’s very nice that we have so many people on this webinar because number one, while I’m still trying to understand what it is. So that’s 39% of our poll. And then we have, I see where it’s being used well in in my workspace which is 22%, which is wonderful. So it does seem like people are getting exposed to visual management at their work, at least 22%.

And then we have 20%, I implement it at work and at home. Nice. I do too. I put makeup on every day. That’s visual management for me.

Tracy: And then finally, I implement it wherever I can at work, 18%.

Elisabeth: Nice. Nice. Good. We’ll have some examples for everybody on that. So let’s come back and move on.

OK. So now, let’s talk about why, why use visual management? And as you can see here, we’ve got a junk drawer and the processes are like junk drawers. If you don’t clean them out every once in a while then it’s hard to tell what you have, whether you have what you need, where to find anything. You get the idea that reaching into this drawer might even be dangerous. And all of this applies to processes.

Why Do We Need Visual Management?

So thinking about why we need visual management, one thing I’d like to give as an example is, think about McDonalds. It’s a worldwide food service that is run by teenagers. And given that, it seems a miracle that they don’t kill more people. And I’m not being fictitious. Just think about some of the in the news issues around food-borne illnesses and things like that.

And one of the reasons that they don’t is that they rely on visual management. They have to. They plan on turnover. They can’t spend a lot of time bringing people up to speed. The workplace has to do the work for them. They got a multicultural workforce. They truly rely on visuals.

So you’ve got to provide understanding at a glance. People need to walk in and as Tracy was describing, you should be able to see right away how a process works.

Educate the workforce. Reduce the need for training.

I don’t know how often I have heard team leads, Green Belts, Black Belts all come up with root cause analysis and tell me, “You know what we need? We need more training.” And my immediate thought is, “Why? Why do we need more training? Why isn’t the process explaining how this process works by itself? What’s all this need for training about?”

Reduce the process errors and wasted time.

You’re going to hear a lot of the downside of having a lack of good visual management is the waste – one of the 8 wastes of time, wasting time, people searching for things. And also, making mistakes because they don’t see how there’s supposed to do things.

You want to make abnormal conditions stand out.

So you can see how the process works and you can see when it’s not working. And then you want to make sure that people who are performing the work are the first to detect and address abnormalities. So that is some of the high level needs for visual management.

Visual Management: Guiding Principles

So, 4 principles. Make it simple, make it big, put it where people can see it, and let people change it, 4 basic principles for visual management. So let’s see what that means.

1. Keep It Simple

Keep it simple. How many of you have handwritten signs, dog-eared with age. Nobody looks at them anymore. Multiple alerts on doors and walls. There’s got to be a simpler way to get a message across. So, is there a simpler visual that can get your message across quicker?

And one of the things to keep in mind is that people translate images 50,000 times faster than text, 50,000 times faster. Wow! Yeah. So when you are thinking about writing a sign, ask yourself, “Is there a visual? Is there a color? Is there some way to get this across so the eyes get it before the brain has to translate it?”

2. Make It Big

Make it big. And this – most of us don’t have a background in graphics. Our handwriting varies. Have an outside observer tell you, is this big enough?

I’ll tell you a story. We have an old house. We have an ancient front door that opens to a main sort of fast road. So nobody uses that door. It has got a nice brick walkway. It looks pretty but it’s really just nonfunctional. And my husband put a sign out front to say to FedEx and UPS, “Come around the side door. Come around the back where everybody else comes.” And he gets very annoyed when FedEx insist on putting packages at the front door anyways. He is mad. He is like, “I put a sign up there.”

So I just took a walk with him around the building the other day and I was looking at the sign. And there it was, 30 feet from the road. And not only was it in handwriting and not very big handwriting, but now, it had faded with elements. And I said, “I think we need to improve our visual management.” So make sure it’s big.

3. Put It Where People Need It

Put it where people need it. Integrate visuals at the point of use, on a piece of equipment. Universal information goes in public, well-trafficked places and on the line, outline where things should go. If it’s on a board, people use shadow boards in garages, tool sheds. Indicate the process flow on the floor. You can use tape, classic signs in washrooms for employees to wash their hands.

I’ll tell you a story about working with a group. They were taking applications from people who want to open accounts. This is financial services. They had to go back to customer 50% of the time because they were missing information from the applications. They did a little root cause analysis. Used Pareto chart. And the biggest reason for returned applications was they were missing a voided check. We needed a copy of a voided check.

So we looked at the application and there on the back of the application, instruction #6 was, “Please attach a voided check.” So the team said, “Let’s do some visual management on this.” Turned the application around. Put the instruction on the front and just put an image of a voided check. And as you can imagine, the incidents of having to turn to employees dropped down below 5%. So it can make a huge difference.

4. Allow People to Change It

Another thing you want to do is allow people to change. So let them change whatever the visual management is. Enable them to keep process information, current, how many, what’s happening, choose low tech options. You can use whiteboards, markers. Just make updates manually. Create a simple change process so everyone can offer better visual management ideas.

Quick Poll

And for this one, Tracy, I would like to find out what are people’s biggest issues with visual management. So I’m going to go over and bring that one up and launch that poll. So Tracy, what’s your experience with this stuff?

Tracy: Well, I’d love to see what people have to say about some of their biggest issues. Some of the biggest issues I’ve seen is it’s not meaningful or people can’t read it.

Elisabeth: Yeah. No, I’m with you. The thing about letting people change it, I think this is one of the more powerful ones because you want people to engage. You want them to own the visual management, right? If they feel a part of it, you get some real ownership.

And I just worked with a group, a Black Belt. He was trying to help people trying to look up equipment from the equipment vendors who are trying to put together proposals, put together bids, really fast turnaround time. And they are constantly calling out of date numbers for vendors, things like that.

So he put together a great tool and put it online so everyone could see. Here are our standard vendors. Here’s how to reach them. And when he put it out there, someone said to him, “Hey, why don’t you put a last contacted date on that so that people know exactly what’s the last time we contacted that vendor, how valid is this information?” So he updated it with their information, with their suggestion. Let them put that last contact date in there so they’d know who the information was. And now, he has this huge group of a sales team all bought into this tool because they own it, right?

Tracy: That really is the key is people owning it, using it, looking at it, those kinds of things. We don’t want visual management just become fancy wallpaper.

Elisabeth: No. Good term. How many – what’s the percentage we got in this?

Tracy: Well, it looks like we got about 76% voted and it’s crawling up. So that’s pretty good.

Elisabeth: OK. Well, I’m going to close it and then I’m going to share it.

Tracy: OK. So it looks like the biggest issues people are seeing is 34% people use too many words on visuals. Good. Yes. I mean not good. But you know what I mean. And then 27% people use words when they could use images. Yes, I agree. I see that a lot as well. And then we’ve got in the middle, 16% split between visuals are often not in the right place or people are not allowed to change or update the visuals so it’s actually preventing people from actually using the visual management if they can’t make changes. And finally, visuals are never big enough, 6%.

Elisabeth: That’s great. That reminds me of a quote, this whole people use too many words. I think it’s Mark Twain who said, “Sorry for the long note. If I had time, I would have written a shorter one.” And everybody laughs but you laughed because it’s true. It takes time to actually craft your message in the fewest words possible. Obviously, if you can use visual, use a visual. Use an image. But if you’re going to use some words, use as few as you need. And that is always fewer than you think you need.

Tracy: Definitely. And I think your comment about visuals being absorbed 50,000 times faster than text is pretty powerful.

The Four Ways to Use Visuals

Elisabeth: It’s powerful. So let’s look at the 4 ways that people can use visuals. And these are also very basic. You can identify units and materials. You can inform people of the process status, where are we? You can instruct people on how a process actually works. And you can show, what is the on-going plan? So those are the 4 ways we’re going to take a look at.

Identifying Units & Materials

So identifying units and materials. Make it clear what’s in containers. What’s in the area? Don’t make people search for items. That is a waste of time. Back to the 8 wastes. Let people know at a glance where to find what they need. Remove the need to open containers to check.

Inform People of the Process Status

Next one. Inform. Create a visual display. Place it – make it clear what information you’re asking for and include critical customer-focused information.

And then provide update tools. Give them pens, markers, erasers. Make those available. You could incorporate short regular huddles around words like this. These are very action-oriented, very visible, keep everyone engaged with the process.

Instruct People On How a Process Works

Instruct. So instruct people on how a process works. Post step by step. Indicate the area on the floor where equipment belongs. Place arrows on the floor or the walls to show the flow. Include pictures of parts, materials, equipment. This can also be digital. A lot of times, I find people have issues with where things go or just folders fill up, desktops fill up, all kinds of files. What’s a working file? What’s an archive file? What do we really need because left unchecked, you just add more files.

Show the Ongoing Plan

And then show the ongoing plan. What’s in store for the process? Let people know what they are responsible for. Give them a way to update it, so keeping that the last in terms of how to use visual management.

Process Check

So visual management is to make it easy to answer the question, what should be done here? Is there a clear process? Is it being adhered to? Is it delivering value to the customer? Do we know what’s coming? If the answer is no to any of those, it’s time to revisit it. And this is a great 20 questions, just simple tool. It’s a good one for just assessing how your process is dealing with visual management in general. This will give you links too. It’s a free download.

Lean and Visual Management

So from here, let’s bring us down into using visual management. And Lean is very big on visual management. As you mentioned before, classic tools like standard work, cell design, kanban and supermarkets.

Without 5S, you cannot have a visual workplace. And without a visual workplace, you cannot have standard work. And without that, you cannot have sustained Lean Six Sigma improvement and you will never have process excellence.

So 5S is what we’re going to teach you because it is so basic. It’s so basic to standard work and standard work is so basic to improvement. So we’re going to work on focusing on this one tool but obviously, this is leading into standard work, another great tool.

If you apply 5S, you immediately get a 15% boost in productivity. This is transactional, manufacturing, physical, digital, it doesn’t matter. You immediately get a boost.

5S Overview

So with that, let’s take a look at little overview of 5S. So like a lot of Lean tools, this is really common sense. My grandmother, probably your grandmother had a saying, a place for everything, Tracy?

Tracy: And everything in its place.

Elisabeth: So everybody just knows that, right? And that’s what 5S is. It’s housekeeping in the workplace, right? People say, “I know it looks messy and I know where everything is.” And there are people who really do know where everything is. But if someone else comes along, they don’t stand a chance to finding anything. You have to sort out the stuff you need from the stuff you don’t need.

Set in order. That means put the things you need where you need them.

Shine. Just that. Make sure you clean the workplace. Keep it clean.

Standardize so everyone does it the same way.

And then sustain it. And that’s sort of like the control phase of 5S.

Quick Poll

But Tracy, let’s do a little poll and see what people are hoping to apply 5S to. What kind of 5S are you planning to conduct? So I’m going to launch that one.

So there’s a theory called entropy, the second law of thermodynamics. And it boils down to if I bring a hot cup of coffee into a room, what would it do? It cools down. And if I bring a cold bottle of water into a room, it warms up. How does it know?

The point is that everything wants to reach equilibrium. So if you have a workplace and you clean up one area and the rest is messy, what happens? The second law of thermodynamics says that everything wants to go from the highest state of order to the lowest state of order. And that’s what you should expect. That’s what you probably see, Tracy, right?

Tracy: Especially in my son’s room. Yes.

Elisabeth: I’m going to come back to that. All right. It looks like we got 75. Let’s close that and share.

Tracy: Alright. So, the biggest one was both a physical and a digital work area at 56% and then followed shortly by one for a physical workplace for 29% and one for digital space like a shared drive, 16%.

Elisabeth: That’s great. I’m happy to see that. I think this is worth applying constantly to both the physical and the digital workspace.

1. Sort

So let’s start with sort. There’s a picture of one of those desktops that some of us are having issues with. And I know people that have boxes in their garage from three moves ago, they’ve never been opened but they still park their car outside because there’s no room. And it takes discipline and effort not to do that since that’s our tendency. We collect things in the workplace just like we do at home.

Who has boxes from their last move they’ve never opened, a drawer with 10 or more pens? How many pens do we need? We just keep collecting this stuff. They are probably printer cartridges just around at work playing around from a long gone printer, files on your desktop you know you don’t need but it takes too long to even go figure out what’s there, right?

So before you start a 5S, we always advise that you take photos. You can even take a photo of this desktop. So this is a screenshot someone is showing before sample of a 5S effort. And then you can show people, this is where we were and this is where we got to. So show the improvement. And the after becomes a guide, showing people how things should work.

So sort, what’s necessary and how many do I need to have on hand?

Red Tag

One of the tools we use in the 5S in the sort phase is called Red Tag. And this is great. And every time I teach this, I want to go into the garage. I want to red tag everything especially all my husband’s receivers from when he was in college. But then he wants to red tag all the magazines I’ve saved that I have ever received. So that ends frequently.

But this happens in the office too. You want to red tag items that it’s unclear why they’re there. No one touches them after a while because they don’t know whose they are and what they are. So just red tag it. What is this? How many – is it needed? If it’s needed, how many of these things do we need? Does it need to be here? Can it be put away in a stockroom? And as we say, don’t red tag people even if you want to do that.

So set a timeframe. Give people a month. If you don’t clean this in a month, we’re going to sell it and give it away. Move it wherever it might be needed.

I’ll give you a quick story. I was working with a big hotel chain. This was in Manhattan. And one of the things we were questioning was why they had so many armoires in storage? And if you could think about storage in Manhattan, that’s not cheap. And they said, “The reason we store those, we bought them and then they did not fit or the TVs did not fit in them. So we put them into storage.” And the big question is, are TVs going to get smaller in hotel rooms? Not likely. So that was a quick decision. Those got sold and they saved on the storage.

So red tagging is a great tool to really understand what exactly do we need and how many.

Red-Tagged & Removed

This is another project. This was in a large hotel chain. This was on their banqueting process. This was a huge property that held a lot of conventions, lots of weddings. So the banqueting process, they are getting your food into you at the right time. They are moving all of the plates, cutlery out. So having things in the way was going to impede the process. So red tagging what was in the way, clearing it out made a big difference.

2. Set In Order

Step number two in 5S is set and order. And this brings to me another old saying. This was what my father used to say, “Don’t put it down. Put it away.” So where should it go? If we’re going to put this away, where should we be putting it?

And when I work with teams, I often say, “We need to know what the regulations are for this particular. Do you have a standard operating procedure for this process?” And then they’ll say, “Oh, it’s on the C drive.” And then everybody groans like, “Oh, we’ll never find it.” which tells me they don’t have any 5S. They’ve done no visual management on their C drive. And I find that a lot.

So you want to arrange things by frequency of use, location of use because what happens over time in every workspace and in your house is that the things you don’t need move closer to you and the things you do need move farther away. And then you waste time looking for things. Again, the waste of time. So dedicate a place for the necessary items.

And this is particularly critical in the field of nursing. Think about why anyone in a hospital, why nurses are searching for medical supplies. They need to bring them to a patient, so wasting time there impacts people’s lives and health. So we do a lot of 5S with nursing to make sure things are exactly where they need them at the height they need them. We don’t want them actually to be bending too much having to search high and low. So making sure the most frequently used items are right at waist height. Those kinds of things are very critical.

Visual Order

This is an example with that same banqueting project. They use photos. This is great. When you got a multicultural workforce, if you got many languages, you want to make sure that you got photos whenever you can. And as you can see, it’s obvious when something is out of place. There’s a photo right there which should be there. So what shouldn’t be there is evident.

I remember, and this is also something that you need to work with people in the process to come up with the plan, to take the photos, to organize where should things be. Really get input on this. This is an opportunity for building ownership of a process, for getting people engaged. And anytime there is an opportunity for that, grab it. And if you don’t there are repercussions.

I worked again with a hospital group and the day shift organize – reorganized the nursing station. So this is where they put notes on patients. And critical information and they tabbed, color-tabbed it, rearranged it to be the most useful. And in the morning, they came back and the night shift had reorganized it and put it back where it belonged because nobody checked with them.

So make sure you really involve people, both for sort of spreading the culture of process improvement but also for getting the best possible process in terms of visual management.

3. Shine

All right. Number three is shine. So shine is just that, clean and shine. If you keep a work area clean, it’s easier to catch problems.

In the manufacturing work area, it means painting equipment. If you paint it light colors and you can see leaks, you can see breaks, making sure that those anomalies are visible back to that visual management principle.

In the office, I’ve seen offices where there was a clean desk policy. This was a financial services firm. And it was very obvious if somebody wasn’t following that policy. There was something out on a desk at night. So they had a very strict policy. It’s mainly for protecting privacy of clients. But this was a great way of enforcing a 5S. It can be digital. It can translate to IT. That could be maintenance of a system, keeping a system clean, keeping licenses up-to-date.

What’s key is that this is not an annual activity. It has to be regular like a daily 5S. Do it before breaks, things like that. You want to create a drumbeat of activities so that these things are a regular occurrence.

4. Standardize

And that brings us to step number four. And this is standardized. Now, this is a key step. This is a key piece of 5S because what I have seen and Tracy, I know you’ve seen this is because people get really, really at doing for a yes, right?

Tracy: Absolutely.

Elisabeth: Yes. Sort it. Set in order. Clean it. Done. And then a year goes by and you’re like, “Wow! This place is a mess. We got to do something about it.” So standardize is very key for setting up daily logs, sign-ups, date, time, work instructions, who is responsible, what goes where, how often we have to sweep clean and organize, what do we do if things are not expected?

And then Tracy, this might help you. This is what my sister did. She was as most parents constantly telling their kids to clean their room and she realized that for most kids that was, I don’t know, put things under the bed. I have no idea what they are mostly doing, or the closet. Those are the good ones. And she said, maybe if I show you a picture. So she worked with, this is my nephew, she worked with him to clean it one time. They took the photos and she put them up and she is like, “That’s clean and that’s what I want.” So there was a standard. There’s a visual. Try that, Tracy.

Tracy: Absolutely. Defining clean helps and having a picture of what clean looks like helps a lot.

Elisabeth: Yeah. So, what should this place look like? And on the workplace too, what should this place look like? Here is the organization.

And we’ve got 5S assessments. We’ve got manufacturing and transactional. Those are two templates that you can download. Again, we’ll give you those links later. But just so you know you have those. Those are available and they’re good ways to just assess how are we doing throughout the 5S.

Visual Standards

Back to that banqueting example, they had great visuals. They had both wallboards with pictures showing this is the formation. And they call these poker chips which I kind of love, this is the containers for all of the dishes. So they roll those and they showed you on the floor. There is tape right there saying, “This is exactly where to put each of the poker chips.” And then there is a visual on the wall. They should be lined up right here. Here is where all ten of them go.

On the right, a lot of their improvements and this has helped them also with just how fast they could put things away. They learned – they went and ordered these stands with the wheels on them so they could stack all of this equipment on top of it and this is all glasses and mugs. And this helped with workplace injury so people were not lifting as often. They weren’t having to cart things by hand from spot to spot. So that was a bonus that they hadn’t thought about but they did decrease some of the workplace injury.

5. Sustain

The last one is sustain. And as you could tell, the three S, the first three are very – they are fun. They are engaging. Everybody gets it. So standardize is a little tougher. Sustain requires leadership backing and commitment. You’ve got to have enforcement. Supervisors have to ensure that 5S standards are met. You got to audit. You got to give results. It really helps to give scores, how well did we do on each of the elements of the 5S assessment. Publish those scores. Display the results. That’s more visual management. It lets people know how are we doing, how are we doing in our area versus how is the next department doing.

You can reward people. You can let people compete. Reward and recognize. So they have good 5S upkeep. Nothing like peer pressure, right Tracy?

Tracy: That is correct.

Elisabeth: Yeah. And the way to sell this, one term we often use, we say fix what bugs you. And often, a workplace that is not organized is difficult to work in. So it will make the workplace easier to work in. And people can have a hand in how to make it easier, and that’s going to improve productivity. So everybody is going to appreciate that. So commitment, enforcement, attention, recognition, sustain is key to making 5S work.

Visual Management Examples

So, let’s take a look at some visual management that is not really working out. You’ve got the signs on the left. You either need a good co-pilot or a very clear GPS because I would look at and just – my heart would sink. I have no idea which way I’m supposed to go.

The middle one, stop. No stopping. Which is it? And on the right, that’s actually more accurate. That is definitely good luck with getting around with those visuals.

So let’s see some actually – go ahead, Tracy.

Tracy: I was going to say, I think the most interesting example of visual management on visual management system is how we organize traffic in the United States, right? It’s an entirely visual management. I think that’s pretty cool. We actually go to school to learn about the visual management.

Elisabeth: It’s true. No. And I think that – I’m a little bit south of Boston and Boston has a reputation for having based their roadways on what work hell paths. And this I think – even if it’s not true, it might as well be true. And the visual management sometimes, I just feel like going into the State Department and saying, “Hey, listen. You can’t just put a sign 50 miles away from the airport saying, ‘Airport this way’ and they never provide another sign. These poor people, they’ve been driving around for days.”

Tracy: Driving in Boston is hard enough. If anybody has even driven in Boston, it’s hard.

Elisabeth: It’s tough. So let’s take a look at some good ones. I’m going to cover a few different industries so we can see some different examples. This one once again back into hotels. This is housekeeping’s guides on setting up amenities on your hotel room.

What I love about this is they color-coded their amenities. You can see the shampoo has a red stripe and it goes on the red dot. So once again, you’re working with a multicultural, multilingual workforce. Not a problem. They’ve got good visuals.

My only issue is that my area from my stuff was not very big. So mainly, it worked for them. This is visual management in the home. This is – somebody got a hold of a router and did some organization of our knives but it’s certainly obvious what knives are missing, where they go. It’s very easy to manage with a visual, basically a shadow board in the kitchen so you can have it in the home.

This is visual management in the airport. So this is not just what you cannot bring. And again, simple. Big word. No in red. Don’t bring these. There they are, examples of what not to bring. And then yes, you could bring this. Here is a very detailed example of how you’re going to package it into a plastic bag and how big that looks.

This one is great. This is a project – excuse me, process status update which I thought was incredibly helpful. This is 3 area hospitals and they are advertising the wait time in their emergency room.

So if this is obviously a process that time is critical. Time is health. Time is lives. So having a status board saying exactly how much time you have to wait in any of these given emergency rooms is life-saving information and it can be. So I really like that one. That’s a good status example.

Today We Covered

So let’s come back. And just to recap, we talked about what visual management is. We gave you some guiding principles and some of the different uses why we need it that it mainly is saving you time and that means different productivity for different processes. How to conduct 5S, 5S being the basic visual management tool that without 5S you cannot have standard work. Without standard work, you cannot have process improvement and therefore you cannot have process excellence. So conducting a 5S, very basic. We walked through how to do it and what visual management can look like.


So let’s come over. It’s time to hear some of your questions regarding 5S. And we’re going to let you submit your questions and we’re going to give you time to do that. And then while you’re doing that, we’re going to give you some information about what’s available to you, what we’ve got coming up that you might be interested in, and then we’re going to come back to your questions once we go over those.

Getting Started

So first, just letting you know that you got a lot of options. We just put it too up here. You’ve got the Yellow Belt. There’s even a one hour White Belt you can do. Give people awareness. White Belt, Yellow Belt, both free. You’ve got Green Belt training and certification. Black Belt and Lean only. So you’ve got a lot of great options and you’ll see all our buds at the Bahama Bistro. They’re all interactive. And as Tracy and I are constantly working at, they’re enjoyable.

Upcoming Webinars

You’ve also got a whole webinar series. Obviously, you guys were all into 5S but you might also be into why process walks are a must. Tracy is going to run that on June 23rd. Tracy, how about you give us a little description of that?

Tracy: Sure. So we’re going to be talking about why process walks are a must. I think most people don’t walk a process. They just sit in a meeting room and talk about it. They don’t actually go see how the work is done. So we’re going to talk about what a process walk is, why they are important to do, why they’re actually a must.

And a lot of people think, “Oh well, we’re not a manufacturing though. It’s transactional. We don’t – there isn’t really a process to walk. We’re just going to walk to a bunch of cubicles.” That’s actually even more important. Why? Because you can’t see the process, so you actually have to walk the process to actually visualize it. So it’s really important.

So we’re going to talk a lot about why it’s important, why it’s even more important in transactional because often what we end up doing is if we can’t see the process, we focus on the people and we think it’s their fault. So that’s really not where we want to start.

And if you’ve done any kind of process walk before, I’ll just say as a final note about this is it should be educational. It should not be stressful and it should not be a gotcha like you’re trying to catch somebody doing wrong. So we have seen people do process walks not in a way that people don’t want to do it anymore. So we’re going to talk about why this is so important and how to do it correctly so that it’s enjoyable, educational, and it promotes process improvement.

Elisabeth: Great. I’m with you. They’re essential.

Tracy: Yes.

Just-In-Time Podcast

Elisabeth: So aside from our webinar series, we also have a podcast series. The most series one featured an interview with Bill Eureka. Bill was at Herman Miller, a world-renowned furniture manufacturer. And they’re world-renowned for their application of Lean Six Sigma.

And this is a fascinating interview because while he was working there, he met Eli Goldratt, one of the gurus of Quality, part of our Grand-Daddies of Quality series. And he discussed the true and use the true measures of success based on Eli Goldratt’s book, The Goal. If you have not read that fascinating, very relevant today, it’s actually really a fun read. It’s a novel based on a manufacturing plant. So I’d highly recommend it.

And you could subscribe to iTunes to our podcast series on iTunes. So that’s – Tracy and I will give you tons more tips, tricks, applications, book reviews, and all that. So I would definitely invite you to come join us on the podcast.


And let’s come back to our questions, Tracy. What have you got in terms of questions from the group?

Tracy: Yes. We’ve got a lot of great questions here. So one of the first questions is, when doing 5S, should you always do motion set list of how items are used?

Elisabeth: I’m going to be the annoying consultant and say it depends. And I think before I answer that, I just wanted to say if we don’t answer your questions today before the time at the end of this webinar, we will post every question you’ve given us and all the answers along with the webinar deck and recording. So you’ll have all of this.

All right. So time and motion studies, those can be really helpful. I think those will help you decide where – what the quantity you need, how many you need and where you need them. So if you’re thinking about how close should this item be to where the work is done, you might need to do time and motion study.

An example would be, there’s a lot of medical supply they keep in hospital rooms but they have to then get rid of them when they change over with the new patient. So it saves nursing staff and doctor’s time because it’s right there. They don’t have to walk. A motion study would have shown the walk all the way to the supplies. But it’s also a cost because you’ve got to refresh the room.

So they actually have done studies there on which of these is most critical in terms of impacting the health of a patient and then which of these is we can put back in storage and it’s rare. So those can be helpful.

Tracy: Great. Thank you. OK. I have another question for you. What advice would you give to gain staff buy-in on 5S?

Elisabeth: I would say involvement, involvement, involvement. Bring people in. You can even survey people before the 5S about what bugs them. These are always opportunities for fixing what bugs you. So get people’s input on some level and then pick at least one person from each particular area if you’ve got different people using a common area or use the whole group if it’s a small enough area and a small enough group. But engagement, involvement, that’s my main advice.

Tracy: OK. Wonderful. Let’s see here, a few others. So we’ve got lots of good questions here. Do you have any good suggestions for resources on how to use visuals in software development? For example, when your workforce does all their work within an online workflow system.

Elisabeth: One of the tools, Tracy and I have talked about in the past and we use it to a great extent in our own work with, and that’s a kanban board. It’s a visual that software engineers use a lot. And it basically boils down very simply to ideas to do, doing, and done. And you can see at a glance what’s on the docket, what needs to be done, what people are in the process of working on, and what have we completed because software obviously is often in small chunks.

We use it constantly just for managing all of our processes, where are we on this particular process, what’s to do, what’s done. And there’s a great free application called Trello and we talked about in one of our podcasts. And that’s a come on board. It’s a very easy thing. So I would say that’s one piece of advice I can offer there.

Tracy: Wonderful. Thank you. OK. Let’s see. This is interesting. What techniques have you used to encourage senior stakeholders to allow use of visual management within the business when they are against this practice? And she writes, “I work in a legal, very traditional archaic industry and seniors don’t like items on the walls and want clear desks. What would you recommend to get them on board?” Very interesting.

Elisabeth: So this sounds like you have to be creative. I have nothing against a clean desk. That’s actually often the result of 5S. And maybe there shouldn’t be things on the walls. Are there other ways to bring it to be? You might have to get creative in terms of where visuals area. If they’re not on walls, are there cubicles, are there places where things can be indicated?

And once again, it might be the subtle arts of engaging these folks and finding out just what parts of the process they have issues with. And it could be in formal conversations, just asking. Or it can be looking at what are some of the mistakes that happened because things – there’s not good visual management, and it maybe something that you have control over.

If there’s anything you have control over with that you can change in your own space, not common space, and then show some evidence of an improvement like, “Here’s a before, this is how many times this particular piece of the process had an error and this is after I made this visual management improvement or conducted a 5S on my particular area and here is the result of that.”

It could also be a digital. It could be a shared drive that people may not have as much resistance to. Those are just some thoughts.

Tracy: Great. OK. Let’s see. We’ve got a few more here. How do you keep – no, no, I’m sorry. There are a lot of questions here. So, what do you think are the most important preparation and soft skills before deploying 5S in a business functional area that have usually resisted to change?

Elisabeth: So soft skills again, you’re going to want to pinpoint probably a mix of people that are resistant and engaged. And if you can pull them together or at least canvass them to find out what their concerns are. And often if people are resistant, it helps to learn from resistance.

One of the key influence skills is really using your inquiry skills, really asking and trying to find out where does that resistance come from? Because my experience is people don’t just resist because they’re grumpy or they came to work thinking, “I don’t care what they’re trying to do. I’m not doing it.” People are basically good-willed. But the resistance comes from somewhere.

So you want to try to understand where is that resistance coming from, where is it coming from, what are they worried about. And it’s your job to address those concerns. It may be some stakes in the ground you’ve got to put out to begin with so that you decrease people’s fears. Try to find out what are those based in and then try to ally them before you start. So soft skills first.

Tracy: OK. Wonderful. Thank you, Elisabeth. OK. So this one is – yeah, so you sort of answered that one already. How do you standardize a process when there is many people involved?

Elisabeth: Well, that’s a big question. And I think what you’re saying is that there’s many people involved and they’re all doing it slightly differently. And that takes you back to how are we going to get – reduce variation in this process? And that is a larger project than you’re dealing with.

You could do a Lean project. You could do a DMAIC project. Do a process improvement project. You could do a process walk. Check in with Tracy’s webinar on process walks because you can to understand what’s the commonality? What are we all doing together the same way? What’s different? And is it different on a large scale and what are those differences caused? But that’s a whole other realm? You’re really dealing with let’s do some efforts in terms of process improvement and standardization.

The 5S is really in some ways getting a baseline. It’s trying to understand how do we work now? Let’s go to as is and then let’s get agreements on what do we need, what do we not need, how should it be organized. Because groups can actually start to standardize just by going through a 5S, so it can be used as a baseline.

Tracy: Good. OK. One individual asked, “How do you keep this embedded after you’re gone?” So, it sounds to me like they implement 5S and help with that and then how do you keep it implemented after it’s gone. Like for example, on a construction site is what they said. But I think the larger question is sustainment.

Tracy: It is. It’s all about sustainment. And yes, you absolutely have to have leadership buy-in and enforcement. And everything we gave you in that particular step of 5S is relevant. And you can’t control things obviously once you’re gone. But the better job you do of setting up the visual status, how people are being scored on upkeep.

And also, if it’s construction sites, if you don’t have good 5S, you’ve got injury. You’ve got people at risk in terms of health and lives. So, there is a definite motivation there in terms of keeping people safe. But obviously, if you don’t have leadership backing and you leave, there’s not much you’re going to be able to do.

Tracy: Yup. OK. So there are a lot of questions around more examples for a particular industry. So examples for applying visual management in the IT work space, examples for applying it in petroleum process, and also, a couple of others like a fleet management company or organization. And I can just share one example and if you have any other examples.

I think one of my favorite examples of that visual management and it really can apply in any industry is huddle boards, team huddles. So if you have a meeting, a lot of people going to a conference room and they will meet and have an agenda and what I’m finding is there has been a lot of success with visual management of huddle boards. Basically having a team huddle right then and there, quick 15-minute daily even meetings that people are using visual management for and it really has helped a lot with increased communication, identifying problems at hand for the day, things like that. So, people are finding that it really helps teamwork and communication a lot better. So that’s when I’ve seen that it has worked really well.

Elisabeth: That’s a great example. I love huddle boards. I love having that be essential visual if it is for pulling together, understanding what’s happening, what needs to happen. I think that IT, I come back to both some kind of kanban board is a great one. And also, just simple arrangements of what should shared drives work, the way they should work. I often see what people come up with are – one of the conventions for working versus archive files and what is the time factor like how long since we’ve used the file does it then go into archive state.

I’ve also seen good work with IT, setting up conventions for naming so that you don’t have lost of version control, things like that.

In terms of oil companies, now you’re back into the physical 5S world and you got a lot of kind of what you saw with some of the hotel examples, really using visuals to show where things go.

Another big deal in big rig and manufacturing processes like oil, the oil world, is painting equipment such that you can see if there are leaks, you can see if there are breaks, you are aware when things are not right. So you’ve got really good opportunities there.

Do you have other ones in there, Tracy? I mean from your own experience.

Tracy: Well, it’s funny because I was just reading some of the other questions and the last example in terms of an industry that someone asked for is how can teachers use 5S in the classroom?

And I think this is wonderful because I really applaud teachers. They’ve got 36 little souls they’re responsible for. And I think what would be great is to teach the kids 5S on their desks, right? So how do you – and that’s really a management system they can use for the rest of their life, right? I mean I’m sure there are lots of teachers that have seen kids have really messy desks and they can’t find things. And so, how do you walk them through that process of 5S? And ultimately, that may benefit the teacher too.

Elisabeth: Actually, two things on this one. I think that’s a great question. We have an example of great 5S in the classroom an instructor sent to us and we will put that information with the link to this webinar. And the other one is I remember or I’ve worked with in bringing process improvement into education and having kids actively involved in marking attendance for the day.

So one kid gets to be the person who marks whether all the kids are there or for every day there’s a quiz, one kid is again responsible for marking what the score was class-wide for average for the quiz. So now, kids are very involved in their performance and their attendance. So that is a status update and it’s 5S in the classroom that has been really, really effective.

So thanks for those, Tracy. I think we are up at the end of our hour, if you want to bring us to a close?

Tracy: Yes. So thank you for joining us today. And we really hope you enjoyed today’s webinar and that you found the information valuable. And we will be answering all remaining questions online. Those will be available. Please don’t forget to provide us some feedback on any additional webinars that you would like to hear. And thank you so much everyone for joining. This is concluding our broadcast for today. Thank you from everyone at We’re very happy that you joined us.

Elisabeth: Thanks everybody.

Tracy: Bye-bye.

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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.