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Lean IT 5S’s- Are you utilising Lean 5s within your Service Improvement Workshops?

Businessman in suit touch the word "Lean".

A high-level introduction into Lean 5S and how it can help manage your environment, save you time and make you more efficient. In iCore’s experience many organisations forget to consider the work place environment itself as an area for improving effectiveness of IT service delivery. In the example below we will show how the Lean 5S’s can be applied to a common real-world problem.

Can’t find your keys?

We have all been there. The pace of life is only getting faster, filling our lives up with more activities to do, more gadgets to manage and in the end more items to get lost or forgotten. We can either just accept this and manage the frustrations it delivers. Or we can take a stand and look how we can improve our environments both at home and in the workplace.

In this article we will discuss the Lean 5S system approach that can be used to help us manage our environments better, that will help us save time, money and help to keep our blood pressure at healthy level.

So, what are the Lean 5S’s and how can they help me?

Firstly, Lean 5S’s is an established system for organising spaces so work can be performed efficiently, effectively and safely.

The Lean 5S’s Are:

  • Sort (Seiri) – to distinguish between the necessary and unnecessary
  • Set-in-order (Seiton)– Arrange essential items for easy access
  • Shine (Seiso) – Keep things clean and tidy
  • Standardise (Seiketsu) – Establish standards and guidelines
  • Sustain (Shitsuke) – Make 5S a habit and develop a disciplined working environment


These Lean 5S’s focus on establishing visual order, organisation, cleanliness and standardisation. The steps focus on what you are doing, what you need to do and how you do it, ensuring you have the right tools to hand whilst reducing clutter and waste in your environment.

But how can it help me?

To continue with the example keys, if you look deeper into it, it is not just looking for the key that is an issue. Loosing important keys or having to select the right key may also be cause for anxiety. So, to bring it into context, what we will now do is go through some of the common issues with our keys as mentioned, define how the 5S system can help. Then also give an example of this within a workplace to cement the theory in to practical application.

First challenge – which key is the right one?

It is very common for us to add more and more keys to our keyrings overtime, and I am sure we have all seen the keyrings so overladen with keys that they can barely fit in a pocket. The result of this is that the owner of the keys ends up fumbling for the right key to open a door. They may know which one it would be – but if they handed the keys over, would you?

The Lean 5S Sort focuses on understanding what you need and more importantly eliminating what you don’t need. In the case of the keys – going through them to make sure you have removed all the keys that you simply don’t use, duplicates resulting in a lighter keyring and an easier selection of your required key. We could even go a step further here with the Set-in-place step by colouring each key to help us find it even quicker.

Think about an office filing system (physical or digital) for example. Often you will be looking for a document that you need urgently but will be faced with multiple sources and multiple versions. A simple task of getting a document might take much longer than it should due to office clutter. This is now more concerning with the likes of GDPR as the clutter may have to be cleaned by active legislation. Lean 5S can support by understanding what is needed by the business to fulfil objectives, and what is not. Then putting a plan in place to clean up the environment from clutter that does not serve us and only restricts us.

Second challenge – Loosing important keys

You may have previously lost a bunch of keys that you may not have a copy of or are very hard to get a duplicate. One of the first questions we ask ourselves, was why was that key on the keyring in the first place as we rarely use it.

Lean 5S cannot replace the keys that have been lost, however within the Set-in-place step it can define which keys we use daily, which keys we may need to get a copy (and where to store this), and which keys do we use rarely and where these should also be stored. This results us in having a just-in-time approach with our keys. Only having the ones, we want when we want them, thus reducing the risk of loss of all keys in this case.

Within an office environment, ask yourself the question; does everything have to be at hand? You may need it, but does it have to be on display? If it is sensitive, secure it with the right access permissions. If it is important, ensure it is managed properly for example with a check-in check-out system.

Third challenge – Where are my keys?

Misplacing keys is seen as a fact of life these days, but why do we accept this? Think about how much time you spend looking for your keys on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. Think about how less stressful life would be and the appointments you would not miss by not having to search for them.

Lean 5S’s second and third step Set-in-place and Shine supports this by defining a place where you should keep your keys, a hook for example and to ensure that the hook is kept free from other additions like coats and hats. This way when you want your keys, simply go straight to the hook and (if you have followed the procedure) will be there. I think you can see the issue here, and I just alluded to it “if you have followed procedure” – well this is where the fourth and fifth (Standardise and Sustain) steps come in.

In an office environment, say you spend half your time searching for a stapler, that should be on your desk. It could be on your desk, or someone could have borrowed it, or it is under a lot old documents, gadgets or folders that you rarely look at. Lean 5S will ensure that everything has a set place, the areas are tidy and there is a level of standarisation around the office. This way everyone knows where their, equipment, data or even file structures are.


So, to conclude, in a world that is getting more complex, with more to manage and less time to do it, we all need to do a little spring cleaning. We need to define what is important, and what isn’t. We need create an order that enables productivity not disables it. We need to be Lean, and Lean 5S is a simple straight forward tool to help us get there.

How iCore can help

From office management to projects and IT Service Management iCore can help you define how to reduce waste and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your organisation. With a team of dedicated professionals iCore can guide your Lean projects, from assessments through coaching to full adoption, you know you will be in good hands.

iCore can provide you with independent insight to your existing processes, helping you understand where there may be challenges within your ways of working and supplying pragmatic recommendations for improvement aligned with your specific business needs.


iCore provides consultancy and pragmatic approach to delivery helping many organisations to change their IT Service Delivery to adapt to new and emerging technologies, frameworks and working practices. iCore consultants have practical Service Management experience, working in technology departments for top 250 companies.


If you would like to discuss how iCore can help you then contact us on +44 (0) 207 868 2405 or email us at info@icore-ltd.com