5S Management Musts to Sustain Your Program


Sustaining is commonly regarded as the most difficult part of 5S. In that regard, I’ve listed below what I call “Management Musts” for sustaining 5S. 

Management MUST:

  • Get out on the shop floor (go to gemba)
  • Go through 5S training 
  • Be part of a 5S team
  • Support 5S
  • Focus on the people and their 5S efforts

Managers Must get out on the shop floor.

Warehouse aisle

It’s soooooo easy for a manager or supervisor to sit in their office all day or go to meetings and avoid the shop floor. How do I know? Because I’m guilty of it just like everyone else. A thought-leader in personal development once said, “Successful people do what unsuccessful people aren’t willing to do.”

In my experience, 5S implementations are successful because when leaders make a point to get out on the shop floor and SEE what is going on. Being on the shop floor not only gives you first-hand experience of successes and challenges but more importantly shows the workers that their leader actually cares. Truthfully, I’ve never known a 5S program to be even remotely successful without the manager getting involved and getting out on the floor. 

Management Must go through 5S training.

It is critical that managers implementing 5S get trained on 5S. And I don’t just mean reading a book, watching a video, reading a blog or sitting in on a meeting. Managers need to train through all 5 stages, be in the trenches (the Gemba), and learn on the job. Managers first training should be outside of their regular group, not as a learner, but as a worker. This will allow for more open thinking on the manager’s part. 

Management sends the Team the wrong message when they lack the commitment to the process…one of the easiest ways to kill a 5S initiative.

Management Must be part of a 5S Team.

Notice I said, “part of.” They don’t need to be the leader of the team. Often new 5S Teams develop a code of conduct such as no cell phones or laptops during meetings. The rules of engagement don’t change simply because they’re managers. Managers must be focused on the task and topic on hand, not allowed to leave the training or events for conference calls or other situations that arise. Be a Team player. Do 5S with them, don’t do 5S to them.

Management Must support 5S.

To support 5S is to SUSTAIN 5S. It may take a little diligence when times get crazy but you’ll be glad you followed through. More importantly, your staff will see that regardless of how busy things get, 5S is important to management thus setting the foundation for sustainability.  Managers must give their staff the time and materials to follow through with 5S activities.


If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times when I’m at trade-shows and talk to 5S practitioners. The conversation goes something like this:

5S Practioner: “We used to do 5S”
Me: “Used too? Why did you stop?”
5S Practioner: “We got too busy so management told us there’s no time for 5S”
Me: <sigh>

5S cannot be something that’s only done when you have time. You’ll never have time. The only way to give 5S the time it needs is to schedule the first phases then make it part of your regular standardized work.


5S materials do not cost a lot of money. If ever you hear, “we didn’t have the budget for 5S” don’t walk away, run! As Founder and President of The 5S Store, I know what the average customer spends. 5S Materials are easily affordable.

Moreover, management needs to make sure the materials are always readily available. One of the worst things that can happen to a department that’s plugging away at 5S is to run out red tags or floor tape. We suggest having kanbans in place for your most common 5S materials. One client of mine kept all of their 5S materials on a dedicated 6 shelf unit along with laminated kanban cards and a process for reordering.

Management Must focus on the people and their 5S efforts.

The best practice to motivate people is to praise them on their efforts. Let them know you noticed. It’s really that simple. When you see someone follow the 5S standards such as putting something back where it had been set in order, stop and let them know you noticed and thank them for following the standards.

During your weekly 5S meetings (you are holding 5S meetings regularly aren’t you?) give some praise to someone in front of the group. Not only will it make the person feel good but it helps drive the behavior you’re looking for in the first place.

We’re all busy and I too am guilty of just passing on by when an obvious opportunity surfaced for some praise. But it takes just a little effort to give someone an “attaboy.” Praise goes a long way at changing behaviors for the better – which after all is true goal of 5S in the first place. Remember that these people aren’t just your co-workers, but real people.

Be the change you want to see in the workplace!

You can set the example and transform your workplace from an unorganized mess into a more productive and organized space. Something as simple as cleaning off your desk, putting tools back in the appropriate location, or creating organized spaces on the warehouse floor will show others you’re committed to improving the work environment.


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