Battlestar Voices, the Skirmish with the Fifth “S”

I have been through several 5S training modules during the different stops in my career path.  5S is a methodology generated by Japanese manufacturing to improve the organization of a working area to drive efficiency and effectiveness.  5S stands for 5 stages identified by words that starts with the letter “S”.  These stages are: Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain(As translated into English).When fully supported from management down, it is a methodology I fully believe in.  With that said, I’m only touching on one aspect of this methodology in this expose of thoughts from my mind. (scary place, I know)


What has been in my thoughts lately due to situations in my latest career stop is the last stage..…. “Sustain”.  More to the point, how leadership in my experience commonly fails at driving actions to sustain implemented changes, processes, policies etc.   An interesting item I read is that the Japanese word “shitsuke” (translated to “Sustain” to maintain the 5S moniker) may actually be better translated to the word “commitment”. Does this mean I believe leadership has failed to be committed on a whole?  Not necessarily, but from a narrow viewpoint, I do think one of the more difficult aspects of effective leadership is a commitment to sustaining actions after the “crisis” or “action” moments are implemented.

Maybe the cobattlenundrum with commitment to sustaining is that it is boring? Dull? Lacks glitter and glamour? It is humdrum?  It does not bring forth the adventure of something new and of an attainable and tangible goal to concur!!!  In training for 5S you won’t hear about problems with the first 3 steps very often.   Why is that?  Maybe because breaking something down and rebuilding it is a challenge.  Transformation is something that we can visualize the change in, set easy goals that are perceptible in some way to achieve, can be easily celebrated and can make for a great graph or photo placed in a Powerpoint presentation. Sustaining is……..repetitive dedication to adhering to a standard.   Where’s the excitement in that?

In an effort to stay vague, recently a department has gone through radical change.  Management was removed, corporate personnel were brought in to make changes, a great celebration of achievement was had………it was all very exciting.  Weeks…..months later, the next challenge is future tense and the status is not in crisis mode, the changes were temporary, the corporate entities are ready to move on because it is now to the boring stage of sustaining daily dedication to standards.  The crisis moment creates a perfect storm of temporary commitment that has immediate visual and/or tangible results, it meets our cultures need for quick gratification.

Am I writing this because I believe I am great at this?  No, no I am not.  However, the older I get the more I seem to seek standardization, routine……something to count on withcrisisin the mist of chaos.  I still like a challenge, I am still good in a “fire fight”,  but have come to a point in life that if every day is a challenge to change something, then we have created a life where chaos is normal, crisis is our motivation and we do not have a commitment to sustain anything.  Crisis moments can expand our knowledge base, increase our area of ability, spurn on creative problem solving ………….but it is the maintenance, the commitment to sustain the fabric of something that drives the foundation deeper into the ground and allows for the crisis modes to be just that, moments of chaos only.  Crisis moments should be something we aspire to lead through, not the destination.

Faith, marriage, parenting, relationships are all affected by how we sustain our commitment to those interwoven parts of our lives.  Something I take pride in, is that my wife and Ihug have a commitment to sustaining our marriage.  Do we bring in new things?   Yes and absolutely.  However…..every work day I look forward to walking in my door, dropping my work stuff (literally and figuratively) and hugging my wife.  Every night we ensure we say we love each other.  Each work day, we send “I love you” texts.  It is something I am passionate about sustaining in my life.  If we don’t have a commitment to sustain, then what is our commitment to?

How about you, what do you do to commit to sustain implemented changes at work?
What do you do to commit to sustain your faith?
What do you do to commit to sustain your marriage?


Photo Credit 1: Scott Hilton – smartphone trainee
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My wife, daughter and I moved to Texas in 2001. I quit an established job to move to Texas in hopes of providing better for my family, which has succeeded on many levels. I have had leadership roles, titles and actions throughout my work history and look forward to sharing my thoughts on leadership and learning from others that have a passion for honing this needed skill in our lives.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.