Performance Improvement Through 5S Philosophy

Performance Improvement Through 5S Philosophy

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Performance Improvement through 5 S Philosophy

‘Choice, not chance determines destiny’

Abstract: It is an undisputed fact that the success of any organization depends, to a great extent on the quality and performance of its workforce. Several studies by eminent scholars demonstrate this fact. Organizations are also constantly adopting creative and innovative initiatives to make employees happy so as to get the best out of them. This paper tries to relate cleanliness at work with performance improvement taking clues from 5S philosophy.


The strength of any organization, to a large extent, depends on the quality, knowledge, abilities and performance of its workforce. When people are recruited, more so in the context of knowledge based organizations, every care is being taken to select people who possess necessary and required capabilities. But to the dismay of organizations, the performance of its employees is not matching with the desired expectations of the organizations. In fact this is the beginning for motivational theories and scholars researched on how to motivate employees to get the best out of them for which they are capable and paid for. There is abundant literature on this from Mc Gregor, Maslow, Alderfer, Murray, Herzberg, McClelland, Vroom, Porter-Lawler, Adams, Skinner and others (See Fred Luthans 2005 and others). Consequently, several measures are being adopted by almost all the organizations to achieve excellence in workplaces; notable among the measures are recognizing and rewarding employees through incentives, gain-sharing, profit-sharing, offering benefits, perks, arranging flexi- times and the like. In the process, HRM has come into prominence. The objectives of HRM are not only to ensure right people for right job but also to achieve organizational excellence by ensuring the right people selected for the right job perform in the right way.

Determinants of Performance:

Performance denotes the actual work turned out by the employee in the job. In other words, performance is the extent of fulfilling one’s given obligations. The specific manner in which the individual enacts and performs his role can be construed as role performance. (See Merton 1957) Performance measurement is a multi-dimensional concept and no single factor can sufficiently explain. Though employees of similar categories and grades are assigned more or less similar roles and responsibilities, performance varies from individual to individual because of different influencing factors. Performance depends not only on abilities and efforts but also on several external and internal factors.

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Studies show there are several determining factors of performance. Abilities can be derived from knowledge and skills whereas efforts are based on needs, desires and prevailing environment. Job design, role clarity, potential leadership and competing and collaborating colleagues also make a lot of difference in one’s performance. Some other important factors that have bearing on performance are socio-economic status, job satisfaction, attitude towards work, aspirations for achievement, commitment to work, social and professional awareness, relations with role-set members and others (See Ramana P.V.L. 1992). For instance, several research studies show significant positive correlation between professional efficiency and factors like job satisfaction, relations with role-set members, organizational culture and organizational climate. Equally important is the prevailing environment and the discipline maintained in the organizations.
Performance Management:
Performance Management is a means for getting better results for organizations by aligning individual performances with vision, mission and objectives of organizations. The goal of performance management is to energize workforce to work on five dimensions with emphasis on work-oriented behavior:
1) Cost effectiveness
2) Qualitative performance
3) Timeliness
4) Self-esteem and self-actualization
5) Continuous improvement

Performance Improvement:

Creative combination of all the determining factors of performance is essential for performance improvement and each factor is important in its own way .The present paper throws some light on the unexplored aspects of performance improvement through self-discipline and cleanliness at work places. The author believes that in addition to the financial and non-financial factors of motivation, cleanliness in work places needs to be given utmost priority. To substantiate this, an attempt is made in this paper to relate it with ‘5 S Philosophy’.

What is 5S Philosophy?

5S is a management philosophy that advocates self-discipline among employees. It advocates better living and improved work life. It demonstrates strong relation between physical environment at wok places and productivity. In simple terms, 5S reduces waste and improves quality of work life. It promotes attitudinal changes and inculcation of good habits. The premise behind 5S philosophy is that if one is self- disciplined, one can improve and tackle job tasks efficiently. Like other Japanese management philosophies such as TQM (Total Quality Management), Kaizen (Continuous Improvement), JIT (Just-In-Time) and Lean Production, 5S helps an organization to improve its productivity, work efficiency and quality.
5 S stands for 5 Japanese words that begin with S:

Seiri (structurize)
Seiton (systemize)
Seiso (sanitize)
Seikestu (standardize)
Shitsuke (sustain)

Seiri is nothing but eliminating unnecessary items from the work place. It requires sorting out what is not required, be that tools, files, or equipment and eliminate them for maintaining tidiness. By discarding the unwanted items; it becomes easier to locate what is really wanted. It helps in reducing time in searching the wanted items. It often happens in work that we waste lot of time to get the appropriate item we want. One can be more efficient and effective in work by eliminating the not so required items. The attitude of ‘saving for the rainy day’ or ‘make hay when the sun shines’ needs to be replaced with ‘seiri’ concept.
Seiton is arranging and setting in order all items pertaining to work. The underlying philosophy of Seiton is ‘there is a place for everything and everything in its place’. It encourages orderliness in work and is an efficient and effective storage method. This type of systemization facilitates retrieval of wanted items. For instance, five ways to speed up your computer (mail sent by Sridhar Juluru dated 10 April 2008) is relevant for computer usage. The five ways are using disk cleanup, speeding up access to data, running disk defragmenter, detecting and repairing disk errors and protecting computer against spy ware. Similarly, the hard copies, if not required need to be discarded and every paper is to be kept in its place with relevant file title in an orderly manner.
Seiso is cleaning the work place and to see that work place shines. It is sanitizing work place spic and span clean and maintaining hygiene. By cleaning up at the end of the day one can easily know what was done already and what needs to be done for tomorrow. Planning for the next day is important. Employees can start straight away work as they enter work places. Those are the fresh and precious hours wherein the energies of employees are at the peak.

Seikestu is identifying, maintaining and standardizing best practices in work area. Employees have to sit together and identify those best procedures and practices which need to be followed that can be stabilized. This paves way for efficiency, effectiveness, quality and consistency.

Shitsuke is to make the best practices as a way of life. In other words, it is internalizing and integrating those best practices in such a way that there is sustainable development in work places. It is inculcating self-discipline among employees so that the rules of the organization become habits of employees. Kurt Lewin’s change model of refreezing takes place wherein old systems make way to new systems with no resistance to change.

Benefits of 5S Philosophy:

1) Work place becomes clean and better organized
2) Operations become easier and safer
3) Employees become proud of work places and like to identify with them
4) Efficiency increases with increase in productivity
5) Discipline becomes the hallmark of organizations
6) Paves way for innovation and creativity
7) Develops synergy among employees without social-loafing.
8) Participative management style becomes the norm of the organizations
9) In a nutshell, 5S is performance improvement.
Performance Improvement through 5 S Philosophy
The work place changes as discussed under 5S Philosophy will promote self-confidence and self-discipline among employees and help them realize their goals matching with organizational goals. The proactive measures required for performance improvement at work places are:

1) Regular inspection and monitoring
2) Identifying the resources required and making available
3) Identifying the deviations and critical areas that require improvement
4) Taking corrective actions
5) Advocating informal management techniques
6) Planning for the next day at the end of the day
7) Inculcating the spirit of self-discipline among employees

Management can send positive signals and reinforce office messages by walking around the premises and asking appropriate questions to the concerned so as to know the nature, extent and causes of deviations and suggest remedial measures. Regular inspection and monitoring with personal touch could bring drastic changes. Meticulous analysis of deviation needs to be done to prevent recurrence of the problem. Installing a small prize for ‘the best maintainer of the month’ may yield encouraging results. We cannot afford to live with stink and the need of the hour is eco friendly environment in work places to facilitate better performance. For instance, working with bad lighting, improper ventilation, foul air stagnation in A.C. rooms, stinking toilets, dust flowing files, tea served in half-broken tea cups, unhygienic handling of food products, unsuitable chairs before computers- all need attention and constant monitoring. Discipline is the hallmark of development. Anything imposed from outside will not yield lasting results. Sustainable development comes from within and if employees are self-disciplined, be that coming on time or abiding rules or following the norms of organizations, performance automatically improves. It is true that if one is at the table, naturally the output is obvious... Small proactive measures taken always have far reaching effects.

To be successful in highly competitive world, companies require to continuously and constantly take initiatives for improving the levels of performance of their work force by adopting people friendly measures. It is people who deliver the results and all depends on how much importance is given to Human Resources by organizations.

References: Applying the 5S Philosophy in Your Workplace 5S philosophy: What is it and Why Should You Care?
Fred Luthans 2005 Chapter 8 Motivational Needs and Processes in Organizational Behavior, Mc Graw Hill, International Tenth Edition
Merton, R. K. 1957 Social Theory and Social Structure, New York, The Free Press
Ramana P.V.L. 1992 Modernity and Role Performance of Women Teachers, Kanti Publications, New Delhi
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