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TQM and Change Management via 5-S
By Prof. Sam K. M. Ho

Management of Change
Is 5-S Applicable to the Western World?
The 5-S Practice in Detail
The Hong Kong 5-S Campaign
The New 5-S Paradigm towards TQM

The 5-S practice is a technique used to establish and maintain quality environment in an organisation. The name stands for five Japanese words: Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu and Shitsuke [Osada, 1991]. The English equivalents, their meanings and typical examples are shown in the following table:

Japanese English Meaning Typical Examples (out of 50)
Seiri Structurise Organisation Throw away rubbish or return to store
Seiton Systemise Neatness 30-second retrieval of document
Seiso Sanitise Cleaning Individual cleaning responsibility
Seiketsu Standardise Standardisation Transparency of storage
Shitsuke Self-discipline Discipline Do 5-S daily

The technique has been practised in Japan for a long time. Most Japanese 5-S practitioners consider the 5-S useful not just for improving their physical environment but for improving their thinking processes as well. Apparently the 5-S can help in all walks of life. Many of the everyday problems could be solved through adoption of this practice.

Management of Change
There is an old saying: "the only constant is change". If change is part of our daily life, how can we drive it under our control rather than being driven off by it? Change in organisation would, in the long run, lead to change in the organisational culture. A typical example is the learning organisation, where people are excited in trying out new ideas and recognise that failure is an important part of success. Let us take a step back to look at the traditional strategic change process which can broadly be summarised by five key steps [Ho, 1999]:

Vision ==> Mission ==> Behaviour ==> Action ==> Culture

A new paradigm is:

Action ==> Behaviour ==> Mission ==> Vision ==> Culture

In fact, the first step is nothing new. Peters and Waterman [1982], have already found out from over 46 successful firms that most of them choose 'action' as step number one in their pursuit towards excellence. The new idea here is that action leads to behaviour change of the employees. This arises from the learning process, and as Reg Raven [1983] said: "There is no learning without action and no action without learning." If learning has been taken successfully, the organisational behaviour will be lifted to a dynamic and challenge-seeking level. This will influence the top management in defining their mission. By then they are confident that the mission, spin off from the better organisation behaviour, will take off once it is announced. The chief executive will then be in a position to develop the corporate vision which will take the organisation through to world class against competition. Built on firm foundations, the new vision will establish a new culture within the organisation. One best known example of this new culture is 'Kaizen', the Japanese word for continuous improvement. Being action oriented, 5-S is a powerful quality tool for everyone to get involved in the improvement process. Therefore, it is a very effective way to implement the new management paradigm.

Is 5-S Practice Applicable to the Western World?
Research by Ho [1995] has shown that the western world seldom recognises the significance of the 5-S practice although there are indications that some companies have included some aspects of the 5-S in their routines without being aware of its existence as a formalised technique. There are many examples of successful implementation of some principles of the 5-S, especially in the service sector organisations, such as fast-food restaurants, supermarkets, hotels, libraries, and leisure centres. The difference between the Japanese and western approach lies mostly in the degree of employee involvement. By formalising the technique, the Japanese established the framework which enabled them to successfully convey the message across the organisation, achieve total participation and systematically implement the practice. The 5-S has become the way of doing businesses, not only to impress the customers but to establish effective quality processes as prerequisites for good products and services.

The 5-S Practice in Detail
In order to be able to comment whether 5-S practice is useful, the proprietary 5-S Audit Worksheet developed by Ho [1995] is exhibited below. Following the rule of TQM (i.e., KISS – Keep It Short and Simple), the check-points are mostly self-explanatory:-

5S What © Prof. Sam Ho – samho@hkbu.edu.hk Where How Who When
S-1 Stucturise
1.1 Throw away/return things which are not needed        
1.2 Paperless and Re-cycle Bins for papers, bottles, etc.        
1.3 “Needed things” stored: low, medium & high usage        
1.4 Personal belongings kept to the minimum        
1.5 Treat defects, leakage, breakage and their causes        
1.6 One-is-best #1:Daily “Things-to-do” List        
1.7 One-is-best #2: one set of tools/stationery/1-page form        
1.8 One-is-best #3:one hour meeting        
1.9 One-is-best #4: one stop service for customer        
1.10 One-is-best #5: one location file (e.g. LAN server)        
S-2 Systemise
2.1 Everything has a clearly designated name & place        
2.2 Every place should have a ‘responsible person’ label        
2.3 Eliminate unnecessary covers and locks        
2.4 Functional placement for leaflets, tools and material        
2.5 Filing standards and control master list        
2.6 First in, first out arrangement        
2.7 Zoning and placement marks        
2.8 Neat notice boards (also remove obsolete notices)        
2.9 Easy-to-read notices (including zoning)        
2.10 30-second retrieval of tools, document & parts        
S-3: Sanitise
3.1 Individual cleaning responsibility assigned        
3.2 Make cleaning and inspection easier        
3.3 Clean even the places most people do not notice        
3.4 Cleaning inspections and correct minor problems        
3.5 Regular sparkling cleaning campaigns        
S-4: Standardise
4.1 Transparency (e.g. glass covers for see-through)        
4.2 Straight line and right-angle arrangements        
4.3 'Danger' warning signs and marks        
4.4 Fire extinguisher and 'Exit' signs and safety device        
4.5 Work instructions and ‘passed’ labels        
4.6 Electrical wiring neatness and switch labels        
4.7 Energy Preservation – Aircon temp. mark/switch        
4.8 Colour-coded gangways/ pipes and directional marks        
4.9 Colour coding -- paper, files, containers, etc.        
4.10 Responsibility labels on floor plan or at site        
4.11 Prevent noise and vibration at source        
4.12 Department/office labels and name plates        
4.13 Foolproofing (Poka-yoke) Practices        
4.14 Park-like environment (garden office/factory)        
4.15 5-S Museum (including photos before/after 5-S)        
S-5: Self-discipline
5.1 Execute individual 5-S responsibilities        
5.2 Wear, if necessary, safety helmet/gloves/shoes/etc.        
5.3 Good communication and telephone practices        
5.4 Daily 5-minute 5-S Practice        
5.5 One day processing of job/tasks        
5.6 Practise dealing with emergencies        
5.7 Organisation Chart and Performance Indicators        
5.8 Design and follow the 5-S Manual        
5.9 Quarterly 5-S Audit and Improvements        
5.10 Seeing-is-believing: check for 5-S environment        

The Hong Kong 5-S Campaign
In order to promote the 5-S practice in Hong Kong, it is important that a massive promotional campaign be launched together with a easily accessible training programme. In 1998, the HKSAR Government approved a HK$4.6 million training programme for the author for training up 2,500 people in two years’ time as 5-S Lead Auditors, the first of its kind in the world. Each delegate was given a copy of the 5-S Workbook and attended two half-day sessions in consecutive weekends. In between the two Saturdays, the delegates had to do the 5-S Audit at their own organisation. Ten photos had to be taken, one each for the good and bad examples of 5-S. There was a written test on the second day, and each delegate would be awarded the 5-S Lead Auditor Certificate if they pass both the live audit and the written test. Since launched in April 98, over 5,000 Lead Auditors had been trained, including a number of in-company training for the manufacturing, service, health, education and public sectors. In 1999, the HK 5-S Association was established in order to continue promote the HK 5-S Campaign beyond the end of the funded project, with the world’s first 5-S Convention held in May 99. Moreover, the training programme was franchised to the HK Civil Service Training and Development Institute, Hospital Authority, DHL, and some statutory organisations in China.

In May 2001, a questionnaire survey was conducted to find out the suitability, importance, difficulties and benefits of 5-S implementation, based on a sample size of 102 delegates who attended the Annual 5-S Convention. The findings are shown in Figure 1-4, and they are summarised as follows.

In Fig.1 (Suitability for 5-S Implementation), most respondents find 5-S suitable for implementation at their workplace and at home, with a skew towards scale 7 of the Likert 7-point scale. Moreover, workshop areas finds most benefit when compared with office and home.

Figure 1: Suitability for 5-S Implementation

In Fig.2 (Importance of 5-S), most respondents find 5-S suitable for implementation, with a skew towards scale 7 of the Likert 7-point scale. Moreover, majority people consider self-discipline as the most important element out of the 5-S.

Figure 2: Importance of 5-S

In Fig.3 (Hurdles in 5-S Implementation), most respondents find all elements (resource, time, co-operation, top management support and sub-ordinate’s participation) relevant hurdles which they have to overcome. Amongst these, top management support and sub-ordinates’ participation are most crucial.

Figure 3: Hurdles in 5-S Implementation

In Fig.4 (Benefits of 5-S Implementation), most respondents find all 10 elements relevant benefits which they can achieve. Amongst these, safety, quality, productivity and image are more important to them. One interesting finding is that, for those respondents know about ISO 9000, ISO 14000 and OHSAS 18001, they all agreed that 5-S is useful as a stepping stone for their certifications – a distinctive skew towards point 6-7.

The HK 5-S Association started certify companies for their 5-S practice, somewhat like the ISO 9000 certification. The major difference is that the 5-S manual is very thin (not more than 50 pages, and including 50 standard photos). For those who are certified, they find it very effective to motivate everyone to get involve, hence the word ‘totality’ of TQM. Since launched in 2000, 16 companies have been registered, and many more are in the process. The feedback from the senior executives of the sampled companies are quoted below.

Figure 4: Benefits of 5-S Implementation

A Construction Company
"The Hong Kong construction industry most operates under very low profit margins due to the competitive nature of the prevailing tendering systems. The hair-split difference between profit and loss are largely determined by how good our firm can organise, standardise and discipline our daily activities. We have found the 5-S useful in helping us to meet the quality and delivery requirements of our clients."

A Property Maintenance Organisation
"5-S is a simple but effective tool to improve productivity through a better management of the working environment. In view of the vast volume of work as well as data handled by the Maintenance Division, there is a need to adopt a systematic approach to organise information and manage our operations in order to provide a better service to public housing residents. The use of 5-S techniques provides a solid foundation for the implementation of the Quality Management System in the Maintenance Division."

A Manufacturer with Factory in China
"Neatness and tidiness have always been our principles for creating a comfortable and safe working environment for our staff. The 5-S has provided us with a framework for implementing our principles effectively and systematically."

A Retail Outlet
"We aim at the operating the best traditional Chinese food chain in Hong Kong. In order to achieve this, we are totally committed to provide quality product and services to our customers. Our experience has confirmed that the 5-S practice is a very useful tool for us to provide a pleasant and customer-centred environment, making eating a completely new and exciting experience."

A Government Department
"The 5-S lays a foundation for our quality programmes and enables us to continuously improve our services to the customers. Staff can easily understand the simple and effective tools under the 5-S and apply them in their daily work with improved results. In addition, implementation of the 5-S provides a pleasant working environment conducive to staff morale and productivity."

The New 5-S Paradigm towards TQM
Through in-depth research in Hong Kong, Japan and the UK, the author has identified the 5-S practice as the step number one for a TQM programme [Ho & Fung, 1995]. Being action oriented, 5-S is an important step towards process improvement, the key to ISO 9000, ISO 14000 and OHSAS 18001. When added with the 50-points of the 5-S element, the quality, environmental and safety management systems can be steered towards TQM as shown in the flow diagram below:

5-S » ISO 9000 / ISO14000 / OHSAS 1800 » TQM

The author is doing a longitudinal research in leading a number of major construction companies in the HKSAR towards TQM based on the above new 5-S paradigm. Since the construction industry in HK required certified in all three management systems by their major clients, they are experimenting to see how 5-S can be used as an integrating tool for this “Change Management”. A successful story was recorded in one of the construction sites in Tseung Kwan O in the Kowloon Peninsula. It has now been widely recognised as a model site for the construction industry, with zero accident, little quality problem, high productivity and meeting target completion date. More accurate comparative data before and after changes are being collected in order to show more significant statistical results and analysis based on different site conditions.

The 5-S practice is a well-recognised methodology used by the Japanese for improving the work environment. It was found to be key to quality and productivity. This paper details the proprietary 5-S audit methodology and reports on how it has been adopted and adapted to the Hong Kong business environment through the training programme and case studies conducted by the Industry Department. The 5-S practice is useful because it helps everyone in the organisation to live a better life. It is the starting point of a TQM programme. In fact, many successful organisations, east or west, have already included some aspects of the 5-S in their routines without being aware of its existence as a formalised technique. The Hong Kong Government is fully committed to promoting the 5-S practice in order to help industries to improve their competitiveness. It is therefore hoped that this paper will serve as a seed and a working manual to promote such an effective and important quality techniques world-wide.

Ho S.K.M. [1999], TQM: An Integrated Approach -- Implementing TQ through Japanese 5-S and ISO 9000, Kogan Page, UK (95 & 97 Ed.), HKBU (99 Ed.).

Ho S.K.M. [1997], 5-S: The Key to Improve your Quality and Productivity, Hong Kong Government Industry Department Workbook, HK Baptist Uni., Hong Kong.

Ho S.K.M. & Fung C. [Feb 95]. "Developing a TQM Excellence Model: Part 2", TQM Magazine, MCB, Vol.7, No.1, UK, pp.24-32.

Osada T. [1991], The 5-S: Five Keys to a T.Q. Environment, Asian Productivity Organization, Tokyo.

Peters T.J. & Waterman R.H. [1982], In Search of excellence, New York: Harper & Row.

Revans R. [1983], ABC of Action Learning, Chartwell-Bratt, UK.


Samuel K. M. HO is the Professor of Strategic and Quality, International Management Centres, UK, Visiting Professor in Quality Management, Paisley University & RMIT. Sam is the Editor of the Managing Service Quality Journal and a guest editor for four international journals on quality management, with over 80 publications himself.

Sam was the Director of the Hong Kong 5-S Campaign funded by the Industrial Support Fund for training 2,500 managers/supervisors as 5-S Lead Auditors over two years based on his proprietary 5-S Audit Worksheet covered in his book TQM: An Integrated Approach, Implementing Total Quality through 5-S and ISO 9000. The book can be purchased from Sam's website http://www.hk5sa.com/tqm







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