By Kate Hickey, Marketing Manager for Transformance Advisors

Practical 5S

At this year’s APICS conference, Maryanne Ross gave a fascinating presentation about using the 5S system to improve your leadership skills.

I am a big fan of finding practical uses for the 5S system, so I was enthralled by this topic.

Maryanne’s presentation got me thinking about the other areas of my life where the 5S system could apply:

  • Work habits? Definitely!
  • Personal commitments? For sure!
  • Time management? You bet!

This is the beauty of the 5S system. Once you understand the principles, you can utilize them in countless ways.

So, using Maryanne’s guidelines, I decided to 5S my life in two general categories – professional and personal!

practical application 5S system


5S Sort

The key to this step is eliminating all unnecessary parts of a process, whether this be wasted time, wasted money, outdated habits, and much more.

  • In terms of my professional life, some of the items I needed to reduce or eliminate included negative attitudes, too much time on social media sites, and telephone conversations at inopportune times.
  • In my personal life, the largest elements to reduce or eliminate were stupid television shows, internet games, and poor financial management.

My method of sorting involved recognizing those activities which did not add value to either my professional or personal life.


“A place for everything and everything in its place.” This step is key for professional and personal organization.

  • For my professional life, I set out to maintain an orderly work space and a well planned schedule of duties for my job.
  • In my personal life, this 5S implementation was my opportunity to replace some bad habits with better ones. For example, I committed to saving money by eating at home more frequently instead of eating out.

Another aspect of stabilize for me was to ensure I have a healthy balance between the professional and personal aspects of my life.

5S Stabilize


5S Shine

The key to this step is keeping things tidy and organized – but this does not have to only refer to cleaning.

  • Some areas of my professional life did need a little shining in the traditional sense, such as my desk. The clutter mostly went into the trash and out came the furniture polish for a good scrubbing.
  • My personal life needed a massive dose of shine. For example, my car had been a dumping place for coffee mugs, receipts, papers, trash, clothing, and boxes.

This area is also where I ensured that my goals were clear cut.

I shined up my goals and aligned my daily activities and choices with what is important.


Since I was setting out to change myself, standardizing meant turning my goals into realities and ensuring that my new practices became habits.

  • For my professional life, we use a goal setting and tracking system called the Six Disciplines. I committed to making it a habit to develop goals and track progress by fully using the tools available to me.
  • When working on personal goals, I found that giving myself small rewards for accomplishing major milestones works as great incentive. It is also incredibly satisfying to notice the results of this process along the way and gives me further motivation.

As with all 5S implementation, the need to standardize was quite a challenge since many of my habits were formed long ago and many practices involve significant changes.

I guess the old joke about doing a 3S System is a reflection on how hard it is to keep progressing after the relatively easy steps of sort, stabilize, and shine.

5S Standardize


5S Sustain

I am now in the hardest and also most beneficial part of the 5S process. It’s time to ensure the changes I have made will be permanent and it is an ongoing project.

  • My professional life is looking good. I have clean desk that has improved my effectiveness and even makes me feel better. I’m using a weekly checklist to keep things organized.
  • For my personal life, I have established goals and have also developed a weekly checklist.

In the end, it is only me who will know the full benefits. As of now, the benefits are big and continued success will keep me going


The next time you face a challenge, or set out to change your habits, remember that the 5S system can guide you through the process!

It’s a great systematic approach for getting rid of the garbage in your way and focusing on the things you need to do.

You can 5S your life!

5S System Summary

Want More?

Learn how you can be all wrong about 5S.

Read about the practical application of 5S in your home.

Written by

Administrative role for Transformance Advisors

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