Gradually changing a ‘system’ (team, company, corporation etc.) – give the five ‘S’s (5S) a try

I outlined earlier, that I do not believe in the Nuremberg Funnel or any other direct way to instill values in peoples heads.

But if there is no “Upload Values” routine in the system, what are the chances to change team and company behavior?

The Five-S approach

Amongst other things the 5S approach has been used for a long time in conjunction with lean production to introduce the lean mindset by applying practices.

The term 5S comes from 5 Japanese words that happen to have fitting English translations which also start with S. As the Wikipedia article states, these words are

While the Wikipedia article explains (a little bit on) how to apply these “phases” as they are called in the article, there is more to these concepts. In other works (e.g. Hirano’s “5 Pillars of the Visual Workplace” they are called pillars which fits the original idea more closely.

Unfortunately these ideas are very close to the problem domain from which they where born – which is manufacturing in this case.

Like Kanban, which hast been re-applied to software-development and a lot of other types of knowledge work by David J. Anderson, the 5S approach also needs to be re-applied to the field of software-development to make it an effective tool for this kind of environment.

So I’ll look into the concrete projections of the 5S for a software developing company some over the course of the next 5 posts.

Till next time
  Michael Mahlberg

P.S.: Of course there are other approaches to changing a companies mindset – some even complementing the 5S approach like the Toyota Kata, as described by Mike Rother in his book –, but the 5S System gives very good guidance on an appropriate level of abstraction IMHO.

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