With so many different paths to reach 5S it can be difficult to map your journey. There is not a real 'cookie-cutter' answer that works for every company. However, after working with many companies over many years our consultants have identified several commonalities that lead to the greatest success.

Best practice #1: It’s not just about audits. In order to have great results after a 5S kaizen activity, you must also have good leadership and teamwork within your company. Audits can become vastly insufficient when it comes to sustaining 5S. I suppose the reason so many organizations focus on the audit is that they believe that measuring something will automatically cause it to change. The problem is what they are measuring is the result of behavior, and behavior is tough to change.

What is really needed is for supervisors and managers to learn how to change behaviors. Then an auditing system can be effective because what it’s really measuring is the capability of the supervisor or manager of the area.

Best practice #2: Leaders' behavior must change first; 5S events and auditing systems are not enough. In order to sustain the 5S system, every member of the company must go through change, starting with leadership. If you are ready to start your journey, here are three-steps to get you started.

  1. Make a list of behaviors that need to change in order to sustain 5S. Come up with a plan and engage your plan with other leaders along with other employees. Accountability is a must in this situation. If you’re not holding everyone accountable for his or her parts, 5S will not work.
  2. Communication is key to a thriving 5S system. Use all employee meetings, emails, letters, visual reminders, informal conversations, progress reviews, etc. to clearly communicate your message. Repetition and commitment will gain positive feedback when leadership puts forth the effort to make changes along with the rest of the company.
  3. Change starts with you. People will pay much more attention to what you do than what you say, so you must act in a way that tells them you mean what you are saying. This goes for the entire leadership team. If you walk by a tool board and something is missing, stop and insist that it be put in the proper place. In this case, you must follow through with your plan in order to sustain 5S adequately.


Changes start with leadership, and while it may be a lot on you, the long-term effects are worth the time investment. People will notice and they will follow in your footsteps moving your company in the right direction.

Best Practice #3: Holding people accountable for their responsibilities and/or mistakes can be a tough thing to do, but it is something that most definitely has to be done. Accountability is the foundation for results, without it, businesses will not perform at their optimal potential. Leaders need to hold all people accountable in order to motivate the top performers. Accountability instills fairness, which is a fundamental for improving morale. Finally, people want to be held accountable just as they want others around them to be held accountable.

Being given a responsibility is typically something employees take with great pride. It motivates them to do better and follow through with their actions. People like to be praised and rewarded. Although, as a leader, you must be thorough in your expectations, set deadlines, and make sure your requests are clearly understood. Then you need to check in routinely to make sure the progress is flowing, as it should. If you have members that are slacking, then you must approach the situation in a clear and concise manner.

Best Practice #4: Remember, everyone needs a coach, even you, as the leader. Sometimes we have to sit back and reflect on ourselves and think – What can I do better? In order to better serve yourself as a coach for your employees, you must change your mindset. To do this, you need to make sure you’re fit to be a coach to your employees. What are your motives and inspirations, why are you improving your behavior, what is your goal in making a change. Then you have to start the conversation with your employees, be supportive, define objectives, initiate a plan, commit, and confront problem areas…including complaints.

Following this four-step process will allow you and your company to achieve 5S success in a timely manner. With a variety of ways to create 5S success we have found, within our company, that this method is most effective in achieving you goals.