How and why to use strategy execution technology for your 5S deployment

I have only just joined i-nexus, a strategy execution software company offering strategy execution solutions. For pretty much all of my career, I have led Lean Six Sigma (LSS) deployments for global organisations before becoming a manufacturing plant manager and a strategic programme manager. In my last LSS role, I led the 5S deployment for Ecolab Europe GmbH, a deployment that comprised over 12 plants scattered across Europe. Each plant had its own 5S deployment plan linked to our overall long term 5S strategy. Each of those local 5S plans were broken down into more details, some plants covering all areas under their four walls, some only focusing on one production line or one area (let’s say the maintenance area for example). The variation in approach was mainly due to resources available; if the plant had a Black Belt, their 5S plan would be more comprehensive.

As the LSS Deployment Lead for Europe, I had to keep track of the overall plan, making sure each plant was progressing as planned. After all, this was my commitment to the European supply chain leadership team and would be the basis of my annual performance reviews. How did I do it? Probably the same way you are doing it today:

  • My overall 5S strategy was presented in a PowerPoint deck
  • My overall programme plan was recorded in MS Project
  • The individual / local 5S strategies (12 of those) were recorded in individual PowerPoints
  • The 5S plant plans were recorded in Excel
  • The 5S Sustain reporting was made via excel files that I would then aggregate via an MS Excel macro and copy into my monthly reporting deck, again in PowerPoint.
  • Etc…Etc.. Etc…

Needless to say, it was Microsoft Excel/PowerPoint/Project galore!! I led the 5S programme over 18 months before being appointed to Plant Management, and by the end, we had made significant progress in all our European manufacturing plants. Did we do a good job? Our before and after pictures surely showed we did. Did we win the hearts and minds of Ecolab employees and introduce and train them to a novel Lean concept? We surely did. Yes we did good, but as we know… good is the enemy of great.


So, what’s my point? Well, now that I have joined i-nexus and that I can see how user-friendly the software is and how it could help all of the steps mentioned above, I shake my head in disbelief: I think… “Damn, if I would have used i-nexus to run that 5S deployment, how much faster, and easier, and effective would have my 5S deployment have been?!?” I cannot recall the number of admin hours I have spent managing this 5S deployment, countless hours of brainless work, very little value-add work, aggregating Excel, MS Projects and PowerPoints together, that as an executive I could have spent doing much more valuable activities for my employer.

And this is the point of this article; I want to show you how i-nexus could be used to deploy a 5S programme. How it can help you to get rid of management by excel spreadsheets and powerpoint decks.

Before I explain more about how you could use i-nexus to deploy your 5S programme, let me list the reasons why i-nexus is a better way of deploying 5S in your organisation:

  1. All your projects sit in the same place, not on individual computers or different sharepoint sites or different servers
  2. As you will see in the ‘HOW’ section, you can use our strategy execution approach to deploy 5S, ensuring you link individual 5S projects to your overall 5S strategy
  3. Projects are assigned to owners who get notifications of deadlines in a workflow manner
  4. PDF reports are created based on an agreed governance cadence and those reports are sent to the senior managers of your organisations directly in their inboxes making it easy for top leaders to know what is going on without having to get into the software themselves.
  5. Once a PDF report is received, the charts and data contained on those reports are clickable and drillable, allowing those senior leaders to answer questions they have ‘right there and then’
  6. Needless to say, the data is available on-line, 24/7, using the most advanced IT security protocols


Our software is presented as strategy execution software and we use the Hoshin Kanri methodology as a basis for its structure.

To cut a long story short, Hoshin Kanri (also called Policy Deployment) is a method for ensuring that the strategic goals of a company drive progress and action at every level within that company. This eliminates the waste that comes from inconsistent direction and poor communication. The Hoshin Kanri strategic planning system originated from post-war Japan, but has since spread to the U.S. and around the world. Translated from Japanese, Hoshin Kanri means “compass management”. The individual words “hoshin” and “kanri” mean direction and administration, respectively. It is often referred to as “The Golden Compass” of an organisation.

Without diving into too much detail about the Hoshin Kanri methodology, I will present the 7 high level steps of the methodology in i-nexus:

  1. Establish the organisation’s True North, i.e. Organizational Vision
  2. Develop 3-5 year Breakthrough Objectives
  3. Develop Annual Goals
  4. Identify First Level Improvement Priorities
  5. Identify Second Level Improvement Priorities
  6. Monthly Reviews
  7. Annual Reviews

The i-nexus software is designed to help organizations deploy and execute their strategy. In that sense, a 5S deployment, albeit being a sub-strategy in the sense that it will often be a sub-element or as I would call it a ‘child’ of an overall organisation’s strategy (the ‘parent’), can and should still be considered a strategy in itself. Moreover, as a regional deployment lead of a global organisation like Ecolab, it would have been very difficult for me to convince the CEO of Ecolab to adopt i-nexus (I never spoke to the CEO in almost 10 years at that company). However, what I could have done is deploy and use i-nexus specifically for my 5S deployment.

In that sense, the 7 Hoshin steps above apply perfectly if you are deploying 5S:

Hoshin Kanri Process                                                      5S Deployment

1.  Establish the organisation True North 1.  Establish 5S Vision
2.  Develop 3-5 year Breakthrough Objectives 2.  Develop Overall 5S Objectives (3-5yrs)
3.  Develop Annual Goals 3.  Develop Annual Objectives
4.  Identify First Level Improvement Priorities 4.  Develop 5S Enablers
5.  Identify Second Level Improvement Priorities 5.  Deploy 5S
6.  Monthly Reviews 6.  Monthly Reviews
7.  Annual Reviews 7.  Annual Reviews


Let’s summarise what is done at each level of a 5S deployment:

  1. Establish 5S Vision

Here, an organisation leadership team or the leader of an organisation himself, decides that a 5S programme is needed for their facilities.

  1. Develop Overall 5S Objectives (3-5yrs)

The next step is to establish the long term vision of the 5S programme: a good practice is to answer the 5W & 2H questions, which will help refine the vision:

  • Who, What, Why, Where & When
  • How & How Many
  1. Develop Annual Objectives

Once a 3-5 year plan has been established, break it into annual objectives. What levels of 5S do you want to achieve where? For how many facilities? Are you going to used a big bang approach or phase 5S into your facilities are typical questions at this stage.

  1. Develop 5S Enablers

In step 4, you put in place the enablers to make your program work: formation of the 5S council that will review monthly progress is of critical importance here. Also important is who will lead your deployment technically? Have you got the 5S competence in-house or do you need to hire consultants? How will you train and coach employees involved in the 5S events? What are the roles & responsibilities of everyone involved? Communication and marketing of the programme should be considered. Finally agree launch date.

  1. Deploy 5S

You are now ready to start with your first event and you deploy your 5S programme according to your plan.

  1. Monthly Reviews

Here is where you execute the Sustain phase of a 5S programme: you review progress against 5S projects, ensuring the standards agreed are maintained and correcting course if necessary. The monthly reviews are more focused towards the execution of the individual 5S projects.

  1. Annual Review

As opposed to the monthly reviews where progress of projects are reviewed, the annual review is set up to look at the overall 5S programme: are you still on course to meet your 3-5 year breakthrough objectives and as a consequence meet your True North / vision that you had set up initially?

If I was ever in charge of a 5S deployment again, I would get rid of my management by Excel spreadsheet and use the i-nexus software instead. It would provide me with an on-line solution where my vision, breakthrough objectives, local plans and individual plans are all connected, and ownership and deadline expectations all managed coherently. This would no doubt, you will agree, give me a better result in my overall deployment. The point of this article is also that despite being strategy execution software, i-nexus can be used to deploy a very specific programme like 5S.

Please feel free to watch our explainer videos for a more visual explanation of the above and please feel free to reach out to us if you would like a personalised demo on how i-nexus could help you deploy your 5S programme.

About the author

Christian has a significant leadership experience in Strategy Execution having led multiple deployments of operational excellence in organisations such as Bombardier, Transport for London, GMAC, Wolseley and Ecolab in addition to having senior operational roles leading manufacturing facilities.

His background is in industrial engineering, and he has experience with Lean, Six Sigma, Kaizens, 5S, and project management in both transaction services and operational manufacturing environments.

Christian is a certified Master Black Belt, and he started his Lean Six Sigma career as a Black Belt in 1998 for Bombardier Aerospace. He completed his Executive MBA at the University of Nottingham.