5S Thinking and Strategy Deployment, say what!


It’s that time of year where we begin to think about the future and our strategy for getting there. If you are using Strategy Deployment or Hoshin Kanri principles you are likely already there. If not, it may be time to do a little housekeeping or 5S your top strategies and actions. 5S? Yes, 5S!

Let’s start with the first S – Sort. Do you have many strategies in motion? More than 3? More than 5? More than 10? It is proven, over and over, that organizations can only accomplish a couple of things well with excellence at any one time. It’s doing fewer things better and quicker.  To accomplish this, you must de-select or de-clutter your strategies. Set aside the  ones that are no longer relevant or impactful. Just like 5S on the factory floor, separate the needed from the unneeded.

Now that you have sorted, lets move on to the second S – Set in Order. Of the remaining strategies, which one is most important? Which is second? And so on. You should have only one number one strategy! This means no 1A, 1B…just 1! If you are utilizing the X-matrix tool, your number one strategy is closest to the X. It takes precedence over all other strategies and resources must be deployed here first.

Now that we have our remaining strategies in order it’s time for the third S – Shine. In the strategic sense “shine” means make the strategy as simple and clear as possible. Each strategy should have a clear measure of success put in terms “from X to Y by when”. In addition, each strategy should have an owner, team and timetable for accomplishment. Any budget requirements, outside resources or capital is approved in advance. The idea is to give the owner and the team both the freedom and responsibility to act. It is also important to keep the strategies in the forefront. Visual boards should be established to demonstrate progress and results. These boards should include the lag metric, lead metrics and team accountabilities.

Now that our strategies are organized and clear we must do the hard work of acting on them. This is where the fourth S – Standardize, comes in. In the ideal, we have dedicated resources who are implementing the actions to support the strategy. The actions are reviewed weekly and commitments for next weeks activities are being made. Metrics are reviewed and adjustments are made as we learn new things…this is a PDCA process. You should have a standard agenda to lead the weekly meetings and all team members are expected to report on their progress.

The last S -Sustainment, is all about creating an environment of continuous improvement through repeatability. On a quarterly basis you should do a “step-back” meeting to ensure that the strategies and actions are still correct and in the right order. No plan is ever perfect and we must adjust as we learn and new information comes to light. These step-back meetings are what keep us real and makes it a system versus a static one and one activity. By leadership engaging regularly in the process and reviewing the progress of the teams, ownership and accountability increases. Results or improvement follows!

So, if you are feeling like the whirlwind has you by the tail it may be time to step back and do some fall cleaning. 5S your strategy and set the course for your true north.

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