1S – Simplify

We are going to run through each of the steps of 5S identifying the critical activities that enable the process. The first S of 5S is


Simplify is about removing all that is unnecessary from the area. If each of us considers the area we work in, how much of what is around us is really needed, here and now?

The first step in 1S is to take photographs of the area as it it. Don’t try to tidy up, just record how it is. Take careful note of the position you took the photos from, since you will be taking after photos from the same location. The next step is to ensure that everyone involved in the process is safe. Identify the risks in the process and ensure everyone involved also understands the risks. Provide training and equipment to all staff and ensure that waste disposal routes are appropriate for the type of waste.

We need to understand what should be at our work station. The first step in deciding what should be at your work station is to decide what happens at your work station and write it down. This should be done by the people who work in the area; once there is a written description of the activities that happen at your work station, it is possible to determine what tools, equipment, jigs, materials, and other items are necessary

At this point carry out a red tag event. The people who work in the area should use the information about what happens in the area and the tools and materials needed to carry out the work. Everything else should be red-tagged and moved to the red tag storage area. Items that have been moved to the red tag storage area should only be stored for a limited time. Typically items are moved into the area within one week and disposed of after four weeks. Managers and heads of department should review the items in the red tag area on a weekly basis to identify items that would be expensive or impractical to replace, items that can be used effectively elsewhere and items that can be disposed of. It is always good practice to check not only if an item is needed, but also how many are needed.

Finally don’t think of 1S as a one-off event. It will need to be repeated every 3 to 6 months because items will be brought back to the area and not returned to storage and over time the usage of the area could change.

5 steps for preparation for 5S

Many people have heard of 5S, however, people often think of 5S and associate it with housekeeping. So, is 5S just an extreme form of housekeeping? Certainly not!

5S was originally used in Toyota to improve performance. The ‘5S’ referred to five simple everyday Japanese words that everyone would understand. The thought process was that by keeping the words simple and grounded in day to day language, the worker could focus on the intent not remembering complex terminology. When this technique was first imported to the west, the trainers used the Japanese words and created an obstacle that should never have been part of the process. The driving force for this was seeing the task not the process. Copying the Japanese implementation across language and cultural boundaries failed to communicate the philosophy and structure behind the process. 5S is an integral part of kaizen linked to elimination of waste and focus on value. For that reason, I use five simple English words – I only teach in English.

The 5S’s are;


Another misunderstanding from the west was adding a sixth S, safety. Safety is of vital importance, however, adding safety as the sixth S misses the point. The five S’s are grounded in an assumption that everything is safe. If the process isn’t safe don’t wait for 5S, deal with the safety issues before starting 5S, after all why would you work with an unsafe process?

Preparing for 5S is vital and too often organisations don’t invest enough to ensure they create the right environment that allows employees to succeed. There are five critical steps to creating the right environment for employees to succeed at 5S.

  1. Create policy and a plan.
    To implement 5S successfully the organisation must establish a clear policy that documents the benefits of 5S and the roles and responsibilities for implementation. The leadership team must be united on the need and purpose of 5S. The team who create the policy and plan should be drawn from all levels of the business. This is to ensure that the potential pitfalls and problems are identified and discussed. Through this discussion the business can ensure alignment between all levels of the business and significantly reduce the opportunities for conflict. The policy should explain the behaviours and standards the business will adhere to regarding 5S.
  2. Write the Procedure.
    Document the process for implementing and managing 5S. 5S is a form of standard work and supports employees and management alike in understanding the benefits and advantage in standardising working practices. Implementing 5S without standard work will make the process much more difficult than expected.
  3. Create a red tag format and area.
    Standard red tags used throughout the business create consistency. This consistency ensures that everyone is clear about the meaning and purpose of any red tag in the business. The red tags also contain standardised information allowing correct identification of the item, date tagged, reason for tagging and disposition of the item. This item can then be placed in a fixed area for disposal or storage.
  4. Create a red tag log.
    Red tagging alone won’t create a clear picture of the items in the business that are not required. The red tag log allows management to track items and the decisions made regarding their disposition. The log also allows tracking of location, cost and stock level.
  5. Communicate the plan and train those involved.
    Once all the preparation is done, communicate why 5S is important and what benefits implementing 5S will bring. Once this is communicated throughout the business select the first team to implement 5S and train them how to implement the process.

Preparing properly for 5S will increase the speed of adoption and the likelihood of success. The leadership must understand their role in the process. Leadership should not be dictating, they need to collaborate with the workforce. The most effective activity that leadership can undertake is to identify and remove obstacles to progress, ensuring that employees have the tools and resources to succeed.
Read the future posts on how to implement each of the steps of 5S


6 tips to live your values, not just laminate them

Every business has a set of values that they tell the world about, but do they live by these values?

All too often, the values are laminated, put on a wall and ignored. Managers are neither held to account nor do they hold their staff to account for deviating from the values. If asked intellectually what do their values mean, they can explain what they mean, however, if challenged when deviating from the values there is always an explanation, a set of special circumstances that mean the values don’t apply. The more money that is involved in following the values, the more pressure the employee feels to make an exception. The problem is increased if the mission and vision are inconsistent with the values, or the employees are not connected to the values. Here are some tips for ensuring that your values are lived not laminated.

  1. Select the right team to set values
    Values are typically set by the management team. What happens when there is a conflict between the business practices and the new values? Will the management team even recognise the conflict? Involving staff at different levels creates an opportunity for assumptions and biases to be challenged. Management must listen to the issues raised and discuss the challenges that will be faced throughout the organisation arising from the values choices.
  2. Ensure there are not too many values
    If you have more than four or five key values, they become hard to remember. If your employees can’t remember the values, how do you expect them to implement your values. Distilling your values to such a small list is difficult, you must decide what really matters.
  3. Create a red flag mechanism
    For the values to have meaning there must be a mechanism to raise conflict between values and actions that is transparent to employees. It is inevitable that there will be challenges in upholding the values, times when the actions that seem obvious are in conflict with one or more of the values. The temptation is always to say that the circumstances are unique or unprecedented, you can’t expect the values to be upheld, or our competitors aren’t restricted in the same way. There are many excuses used to deviate from the values. Having a red flag mechanism enables everyone in the business to raise a concern and also allows the business to stop and choose a different action that is compatible with the values.
  4. Communicate the values
    For the values to be meaningful they must be communicated to everyone in the organisation. Communication does not mean laminate the values and place them on every notice board, although this can be done. Communicate the values through briefing sessions and open discussions, give your teams the opportunity to explore what the values mean and how they will impact on their daily activities. Acknowledge the things that need to change and commit to the changes. Most importantly communicate that this is not a fad, it is the new normal. Your integrity will be judged on how well your future behaviour implements the declared values.
  5. Use the values to make decisions
    Once the value set is agreed, they MUST be used. Ideally, the use of values will be overt and obvious. For example, at the start of a meeting, state the values and remind everyone that all actions must be consistent with the values. At the end of a meeting, review actions agreed against the values of the business. Ask if the actions are consistent with the values. If any action is inconsistent with the values revisit the issue and determine an alternative action. Include a review of values in non-conformance and complaint handling processes. Adhering to values is easy when there are no challenges, you will only know if the values are important when the business is under pressure.
  6. Hold everyone accountable for upholding the values
    If the business believes in its values, everyone will adhere to them. From the chairman to the cleaner, everyone must uphold and implement the values, no-one is exempt from them. Values set the character of the business, and like a person, the business behaviours must be consistent with its expressed values. If the business does not adhere to its own values, the stakeholders will create their own set of values for the business based on its behaviours. Be warned that these values are unlikely to showcase your business favourably!


Values communicate the character of your business to all of the stakeholders, it is easy to write a set of values that looks good, but adhering to them is much harder. Laminating your values is worse than not documenting them IF you don’t uphold them.

My advice is to document your values after careful consideration then adhere to them with discipline and rigour.

BIBA’s 2020 Judge

I am delighted to share that I am a judge for the BIBA’s 2020. I can’t wait to hear all the positive stories of business growth and success from Lancashire.

Good luck to everyone entering the awards and I for one am really looking forward to talking to some of the individuals and businesses that make up our wonderful county!

Five things to put in place when starting an improvement culture

Your business has identified improvement as a critical task. OK so what next?

Whether your business is in its early years and trying to grow or established and looking to stabilise, there are some things you need to do if you are going to sustain improvements. Often you look to consultants for help or send staff on a training course. These activities will make things happen and change, but will they deliver lasting change? Not without the five things listed below. So what are these five things?

  1. Clear purpose
    What is your business purpose, to make money? Look again. Believe it or not, making money is a side effect of a well-run business. Focusing on your customers and their needs ensuring that your product or service is designed to and capable of addressing and resolving that need is paramount. The business must also have a credible story of how customer’s pain points are relieved through the product or service provided. This clarity of purpose in the long term will ensure that you make good choices focused on delivering outstanding excellence of product and service to your customers. Look after your customers and they will look after you.
  2. Clear values
    Values dictate what we will and will not do as a business. How you make money is more important than how much money you make. I have met too many business owners who are so focused on money, they forget why they set up the business. As they focus more on making money, they stop paying attention to their purpose and lose the confidence and custom of their customers, Have clear values that you believe in and are lived not laminated. Values aligned to purpose that are real and applied every day have a powerful impact on your business, employees, suppliers and customers. your values become principles and express your mission with authenticity and integrity. Regardless of your stated values, always treat people with respect, it will pay back many times the cost in the medium to long term. More importantly a clear purpose and clear values generate trust.
  3. Prioritisation rules
    Often businesses set out to fix their problems with great energy and resolve. The problem they face is that not all of the problems can be solved quickly. The resources applied to improvement are quickly overstretched and the workload is inconsistent. This pattern leads to the overburden of staff and unevenness of demand. Don’t try to fix everything at once. Recognise your limitations and use your resources wisely, process improvement is a long term strategy, not a short term fix. Use your values and purpose to set in place a scoring system that can be used to prioritise resources on the improvements that will have the biggest impact on your business. The rules facilitate discussions and disagreements experienced in this phase allow constructive conflict to occur without damaging interpersonal conflict.
  4. Project selection guidelines
    Use your scoring system to ensure that projects are selected that improve your business performance whilst upholding and supporting your values and purpose. Creating a standard scoring process ensures that your projects are focused on long term developments. This doesn’t preclude selecting a project for some other reason, however, the individuals tasked with prioritisation are forced to be honest about their reasons for increasing the priority of this project, be that opportunism, ego, or anything else. Selecting the projects that are objectively shown to have the most impact is not easy, but it is vitally important for both survival and growth. Having a transparent process with foundations in trust and constructive conflict where those involved can discuss and resolve their differences leads to commitment.
  5. Project review process
    All of the work above is of no use if you don’t review project progress. No matter how well a project has been planned, things change and some assumptions are inevitably incorrect. Priorities change, demands change in the business and the resulting progress of the project may not be as planned. It’s not a sign that someone has done something wrong, it’s just business life, so don’t focus on the people focus on the process. Regular reviews encourage accountability and ensure that agreed actions are more likely to happen. Accountability generates results.


Developing these 5 aspects of process improvement will take discipline and focus. Changes to the business purpose and values are major, any change to core purpose and values must be done only after very careful consideration. Purpose and values are core and characteristic, they should not change easily. The specific details of the prioritisation rules, selection guidelines, and reviews will change over time so these are not single events and are in need of regular review.

Businesses often bring consultants and specialists in to help them with their improvement process and ask them to do the wrong things. Consultants are often asked to train, supervise projects, provide specialist analysis skills. Where they can really add value is helping the business leaders to articulate purpose and values, then use these to support the governance system that supports project prioritisation, selection and review.

Thanks for reading and I wish you nothing but success in your business improvement program.


Quality management system development

Why should you have a quality management system?

A quality management system is the first step towards truly understanding your business. A good QMS structures your business approach, embedding continuous improvement as a way of doing business.

The standard starts with asking you hard questions about your business and your customers. The system then takes a look at leadership, defining what the responsibilities of top management are, and what processes they must put in place. Planning comes next, to ensure the business understands what must be managed to succeed. Now the business knows what must be done, the resources must be made available to deliver on the plans. Operational control is required to ensure the products are properly designed, the processes for procurement, manufacture and control are in place and that operators know what to do when there is a problem. The process also has to be measured, this includes auditing and non-conformance management. Finally, the system demands continuous improvement.

As an ISO9001 lead auditor and lean six sigma master black belt I can integrate process improvement using world-class tools into your documented system.

Contact me for a discussion to see how I can help your business.

Coaching – lifelong learning skills for improvement

It’s true. Some people don’t believe they have anything left to learn. I was taught that learning is a lifelong habit and that when we believe we have all the answers, we have surrendered our intellect and allowed our ego to take charge. So who is in control of your life, your intellect or your ego?

Coaching supports your journey to understand why you create your own limitations and helps you to learn how to change how you interact with the world. Being yourself can never be wrong, changing how you interact with the world can help everyone else to see your talents as well.

If you think coaching could help you be happier, healthier and more effective, get in touch to arrange a discussion.

New Explainer Video

I have started using Doodly for explainer videos. I have my first creation done, now I need your help. What do I need to adjust to improve it?

All feedback will be appreciated!

Tamarind Tree Consulting Ltd joins Centre For SME Development

Tamarind Tree Consulting Ltd has joined the Centre for SME Development, a UCLAN initiative to help and support small businesses and new startups.

AS a member of this group Tamarind Tree Consulting Ltd can help new businesses to develop their processes and support the managers and directors to grow with the business. Tamarind Tree Consulting Ltd looks forward to the opportunity to support these entrepreneurs by coaching and mentoring these new business leaders to develop the skills they will need as their businesses grow


Tamarind Tree Consulting Ltd joins BSI

Tamarind Tree Consulting Ltd have joined the BSI organisation. As a business committed to improving the ease and effectiveness of ISO9001:2015 certification for SME’s it is a proud moment to be accepted as a member of the BSI organisation.

I felt it was important to be part of the BSI organisation to help promote quality and process excellence.