Wednesday, January 30, 2019


I'm not here to lie to you. Seriously.

Most companies don't do 5S properly. They don't understand what it is.

And it's not their fault.

If you search on line, or pick up any book about 5S, it will explain all the steps. They are quite simple and seem logical. And when you walk through the steps, you'll likely come to the same conclusion most people do. 5S is about organization of the workplace. That sounds a lot like a housekeeping system. And that's what many companies use it for.

But that's not the intent. It never was. And that's why most people who try 5S fail. It is misapplied.

Here's the dirty secret about 5S: Trainers don't really need to know anything about lean to teach 5S. Companies are usually quite satisfied with the progress and the program, because of the big visual changes that happen quickly.

However, there is a 98% failure rate within 3 years of implementation. Habits do not change and people return to the way they did things before.

That's why managers say they have done 5S before. Sometimes many times.

That's sad.

The simple truth is that most people don't understand why things are marked off in their work area? Why the lines on the floor? Why is this bin in this set location, instead of over there where I had it before? Why must my tools be on a shadow board instead of safely locked in my toolbox?

Do you think people are compelled to follow your 5S rules just because you send the '5S police' to audit them?

You've probably heard of a level 3 5S before? It usually takes about 3-6 months to reach a level 3 5S.

But your consultant trainer likely didn't understand or adequately communicate the organization change that takes place to reach level 3.

Or, to be honest and frank, the company didn't care. "We just want a 5S system in place, we don't want to do lean".

So it doesn't stick.

At level 1, you are learning the principles. You learn basic housekeeping. You clean up to discover the flow in the workplace.

Most 5S implementations never make it past level 1.

Yet I'm betting their audit scorecard says 90+

Get the 5S Playbook and discover 5S done right.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Get started in 15 minutes and deliver results quickly

Many folks say they have heard about 5S. But some are confused about what it's really about and how they could benefit from it. Not to worry - here are just a few quick questions that may indicate 5S could be helpful for you, save you some time and even some money.

Are you frustrated with the time you spend time looking for, or waiting for, tools, equipment or information? Does this happen more than once per day?

Are you tired of the sore feet at the end of the day with all that walking? To the coffee machine, the photocopier, the printer, delivering reports, getting supplies?

Are you surprised that you constantly rush in parts or supplies?

Are you upset that work backs up in one department or in someone's inbox?

Are you disturbed that it takes more time or the quality of work depends on who you ask to do the task?

Are you worried about doing something just because you have nothing else to do? Like making kits or folding boxes - even though there are no orders for them?

Do you put work aside in piles, so you can "batch them" to be "more efficient"?

Do you notice employees just standing around? Are they waiting for a step in the process to be completed before they can do their part? Are they waiting for materials to arrive? Are they waiting for clarification on their next step?

Could you relate to one or two of these examples? More? I've discovered that in many workplaces, we just accept what's going on because "that's how we do things around here". What's even worse is when folks start to think "making that kind of change is above my pay grade".

You may be surprised and excited to discover a quick, 15 minute, do-it-yourself tool that I've used with clients to quickly point to areas that need attention or fine tuning. Most folks who try it say "Wow, Norm, that this was a real eye opener" for them and their workplaces. 

Register to getstarted right away with this quick, 15 minute, do-it-yourself tool.


Monday, January 14, 2019

The Guide To Successful 5S Implementation

When I was first introduced to the 5S system, I thought "this is pretty lame". What a convoluted process for workplace cleaning!

The more companies I visit, the more I see this thought reinforced. Managers tell me they have done 5S ... many times. They say they have effective visual management systems in place and TPM is running well. Yet, when I walk through the plant, I see little evidence of managing visually. When I ask about signals, check sheets and standard work instructions I get the "deer in the headlight" stare.

In many lean implementations, the leaders try to implement more complex visual systems, like kanban, flow lanes, or production boards, when the discipline of 5S is not in place. After all, that's the fun part of lean!

But you have to learn to walk before you can run.

After several of these struggles as a manager and a few years as a consultant, I came to realize the true power of the 5S system.

5S is not about housekeeping. It is not just keeping the workplace organized.

Click here to discover the true power of 5S, and more importantly, how to IMPLEMENT this system in your organiation.


Sunday, December 9, 2018

It's Not What You Know
When you are a kid, just starting out, you think "what you know" will make you successful. It can be bigger than that ... read more


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Success, Productivity and Customer Service Hacks

The secret to success is surprisingly simple.

Granted, it requires discipline - you have to develop a discipline to feed and care for the system. Every time.

Yup, you have to do the work.

It's that discipline in actually doing the work that separates you from your competition. That's what grows your business. Customer perceived value.

Take my favorite stationary store. Here is an awesome example. I stop by with my mental list of stuff to pick up. Yet, invariably I forget the details. Exactly what printer cartridge, receipt printer roll or toner pack do I use?

Enter the card file. These brilliant folks keep a simple card file with every customer profile, account number and the supplies they commonly use. A low tech solution to exceptional customer service. That's why I keep going back. They demonstrate how they value my business and respect my time. They deliver perceived value beyond the product.

True, this information could be extracted from the POS system and built into a computer database. It may even become efficient. But that, friends, is part of the bigger problem. People are complicators.

Instead of spending thousands on software design and endless waiting for technicians to create an elegant solution, these folks simply adapted their rolodex to deliver results right away.

Just do it.

When I entered the restaurant business, the owners didn't even have a customer list. Can you imagine?

We all need systems. They can make our life easier. They don't have to be complex. They don't have to be on your phone.

Did you like this article? Interested in more simple success, productivity and customer service hacks? Here are 3 ideas for what you can do next:

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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Success Hack: How to focus on what's important

I could never make a todo list work. It seemed all I was doing was making lists and remaking lists as priorities changed.

And I learned a long time ago that software won't solve any problem for you. If you don't have a system, a way that works for YOU, automating it with an app is simply adding a layer of waste. Design your system so it works old school first. Only then should you automate it to make it better. Never expect something to work just because it's on the computer.

When I started consulting, I ran across the Eisenhower principle. Have you heard of it? It worked for me in the same way 10/4 voting works for teams and time blocking works for getting things done. I thought I'd share it here, as I was sharing it with the members of my fast track success group. Sometimes the best solutions are the old school, tried and true methods.

In 1954, former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a speech, where he outlined this "Eisenhower Principle" to organize his workload and priorities. He said: "I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent."

He recognized that time management is more about being effective than being efficient.

Important activities have an outcome that leads to us achieving our own personal or professional goals. Urgent activities are those that demand attention and action, but are usually someone else's goals. By rationalizing which activities are important and which ones are urgent, we can overcome the tendency to focus on unimportant urgent activities (who is yelling the loudest). Then we can block out enough time to do what's important to achieve our own goals. We can move from constant "firefighting" to a position where we can grow our businesses, our careers and manifest our own success.

Start by listing each of your tasks on a separate sticky note. This simple act can be very liberating. Clearing your mind of details by writing them down and putting them into a system can be quite a stress releaser. Once your mind accepts that you won't forget the details, it relaxes, slows down and lowers your blood pressure. You likely know this already and that's a good reason to create a todo list in the first place.

 The next step is to take each one of those stickies and place them on a grid. Less urgent goes on the left, more urgent goes on the right. More important goes on the top, less important goes on the bottom.

Now it's time to get to work. First things first; Do what is both urgent and important. The fewer things you have to do, the easier it is to get them done. Forget multi-tasking. Do one thing at a time. Single tasking is extremely powerful and so is being able to filter out tasks and work on what will have the greatest impact in this moment of time.

According to the Pareto Principle, 80% of your results come from 20% of the things you do. If you apply that 80/20 rule to itself, you'll discover that 64% of your results come from just 4% of your actions. This is the vital few. When you focus your actions on the right things, and you do them well, the results manifest themselves.

The stuff that is NOT urgent but IS important should be scheduled. Block out some time in the next few days schedule to do these tasks. These items are important to achieving your personal or professional goals so they need to be done. Make the time for them.

The stuff that IS urgent but IS NOT important to achieving your goals should be delegated. Who can do these tasks for you? Set up a followup system appropriate for the person you assign the task to. At first, set a reminder to check in on their progress. As the person demonstrates that they will reliably perform the tasks you delegate, you can back off on your own followup activities. Have them take the initiative to report back to you when the task is done (and set a reminder to call them if it is not done by the due date). The key to effective delegation is to clearly demonstrate that YOU will never drop the ball and it is incumbent on THEM to initiate followup communication BEFORE you do. If they can't (or won't) make that commitment, it's time to find more reliable support staff.

Things that are not urgent and are not important quite simply will not be done. These are just distractions. It's ok to say NO. Don't accept responsibility for completing tasks that fall in this category. When people see that you are clear about your objectives and boundaries  , they will often avoid asking you to do "not important", "non urgent" activities in the future.

Did you find this helpful? I use a web based task manager called On The List that has this functionality built in. Visit to give it a try.

I provide a newsletter for those interested in fast tracking their own success. Feel free to subscribe if you are interested in these insider tips.


Friday, November 10, 2017

Oppsss the wheels fell off your lean initiative?

Lean is a powerful tool for improvement. But beyond just tools, lean can introduce a way of thinking that will revolutionize results. The step change in throughput and profitability can be nothing short of jaw dropping.

Most people have heard of Lean Manufacturing. It was made famous by the success of Toyota.

In recent years, Lean thinking has extended into the office, health care, construction, engineering design and even government administration.

Most companies that try lean start by taking some basic training. Or hiring some outside consulting expertise. They learn some tools and key concepts that they can apply in their workplaces. They see a few wins as the participants find the "low hanging fruit". It’s almost too easy at first. I mean after all, this stuff is just common sense!

Then they hit a dry spell. It could be six months in, or years later. The wheels fall off. People fall back into old habits. They’re late to meetings, they don’t actively participate in problem solving, and they roll their eyes every time you say “gemba”. Action boards are no longer up to date, missed goals do not spur action. The excitement is gone. And so is your team's ability to meet commitments.

Now what do you do? Click here to keep reading …
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