"Keep It Simple, Stupid!" aka K.I.S.S., is always easier said than done. Recipes and formulas for simplicity found in books and on blogs are almost as popular as fad diets. There's a reason for that: everyone is searching for a way to be a little more effective and efficient in their business, work and life. But so much of the advice that's given is based on personal opinion, rather than wide-ranging, proven success in a business setting. And so much of it fails for the same reason diets do: lack of discipline.
That's why the age-old tool known as "5S" is so effective. Born as a disciplined practice inherent to the lean manufacturing process known as the Toyota Production System, 5S is the term given to five Japanese words that, taken together, provide a comprehensive pathway to simplicity in the workplace.
The five principles have been translated into five English words, all starting with S as well (to make them easier to remember). I asked Dan Markovitz, founder of TimeBack Management and author of the new book A Factory Of One, to elaborate.
Seiri (Sort) "means making decisions about each individual piece of information that has accumulated over time—e-mails, files, reports, journals, presentations, links to websites, and so on. Whether you choose actually to use it for a project this week, move it to a file for future reference, or toss it, the simple act of deciding what to do with each item can reveal systemic (or personal) problems by forcing you to assess how you work."
Seiton (Straighten) "ensures that critical information can be found quickly and easily. This is the wisdom behind a surgeon’s instrument tray being laid out precisely the same way every time, and the military teaching recruits how to pack their rucksacks: When there is an emergency, the surgeon or the soldier cannot afford the time to hunt for something in a panic."
Seiso (Sweep, Shine) is "the concept of preventive maintenance embedded within seiso is another aspect of 5S that elevates it above simple desktop or office organization. Regular attention to the information coming into your office ensures that you will know if projects are in danger of falling off schedule or whether invoices are at risk of not being paid on time—and enables you to act before the situation becomes critical."
Seikatsu (Standardize) "demands the development of a precise routine for the most easily controlled element in a chaotic environment: cleaning and organizing a workspace. Having a system for processing and cleaning up all the information in your office means that you will get through the activity faster and with a lower risk of missing something."
Shitsuke (Sustain) may be the hardest part of 5S: having a systematic way to keep the first four elements going strong. "The deeper value of developing a system for a task like 5S is that it acts as a springboard for the development of standard work for other areas of your job."
"It's helpful to see the five principles laid out in Japanese and English," says Dan. So here at a glance are five tried-and-true ways to improve your ability to K.I.S.S.!
Image credit: A Factory of One