5 S:  5S is a process of organizing your space. The five terms, all beginning with S, are derived from the Japanese words seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke.  In English the 5Ss are sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain (see below).

When you are done you should be able to find anything you need in 30 seconds or less! Make sure to involve everyone who uses the space so you can consider the way they access the materials, too. Labeling helps sustain your hard work, and consider including the minimum quantity needed (toner cartridges, reams of paper, etc.) so that the person who orders can tell at a glance when to do so.

5S Opportunities: Desks, supply and storage closets, hard drives, common drives, refrigerators, work benches

5 S
American Terms Explanation Example: Organizing a shared space Japanese Terms
Sort Get rid of everything not required for the current work, keeping only the essentials. Throw out or give away supplies you do not use. Delete or shred files that truly are not needed. Seiri


Set in order Arrange items in a way that they are easily visible and accessible. Tidy up what remains; make sure to store items in a way they can be easily accessed. Seiton


Shine Clean everything and find ways to keep it clean. Users should make a commitment to keeping the area organized. Seiso


Standardize Create rules and procedures so that users and newcomers know how to use the system and keep it effective. Consistent labeling works! Consider including the minimum quantity needed. Seiketsu


Sustain Be disciplined. You might choose to display a picture of the space’s before and after as inspiration to keep it looking great! Shitsuke



5 Why’s: A method of analyzing problems by asking ‘why?’ five times (or as often as needed) to get to the root cause. There is no special technique required for this, but it is important to remember the goal is to get to the bottom of the issue without casting blame. Also, there can be more than one root cause, so make sure you are solving the right problem.

Here is one example:

“Sheryl, a student had a problem with her bill, but she drove to campus and we sorted out.”

Why: “Why did she have to drive to campus?

“She was not able to pay her bill from home.”

Why: “Why wasn’t she able to pay her bill from home?

“The system was not letting her post her payment to the correct semester.”

Why: “Why wasn’t it letting her post payment?

“I don’t know, but it happened after she added her health fee.”

“Let’s talk with IT and see if there could be a connection.”

This example shows how asking questions can help get to a root issue – in this case, one that might have been affecting many more students.


Batch: Batches are intentional stacks, and usually are set up to make work easier for the worker. They create waste when customers are forced to wait for work to be completed before they get what they need.


Bookends: The beginning and end points of work that is being looked at by an individual or team. Bookends represent the full scope of the work.


Bottleneck: A bottleneck forms when the work coming in to one part of the office is greater than the capacity to complete it.


Broker: One of the types of customers; the agent who helps the deliver the product. In some cases this could be IT.


Continuous Improvement: The never-ending pursuit of waste elimination. It is important to remember that several small improvements can be easier to implement than major improvements, and they have a large cumulative effect.


Customers: The primary customer is the End User of whatever we are making. The end user defines the value, because only the end users know what, when, where, why, and how many of something they want to receive.

Customers can be internal (staff and faculty) to our campus or external (students, their families, external clients, other community members, etc.). Sometimes in higher education it feels impersonal to use the term ‘Customer’. Once the product and customer is defined and we know who the end user is (student, staff, faculty, etc.) then we can refer to them by their appropriate name.

Other customers besides end users are Brokers and Fixers.


Customer Experience: Customer Experience is what happens when a customer interacts with an organization – in this case, with the UMS. What is their experience like over time? This experience creates a personal response or reaction at several levels (rational, emotional, sensorial physical, and spiritual).  Mapping the customer’s journey is a critical part of making sure we know what the customer values.


End User: The person to whom the Product is designed.


Facilitator (General): A UMS facilitator is someone trained to serve teams by as they seek to meet established goals. Examples could include helping to create an agenda or managing a meeting’s process, to something more adventurous like facilitating a retreat or strategic planning.


Facilitator (Lean): A UMS Lean facilitator is someone trained to specifically support teams through process improvements. Generally a team will ask for a facilitator for a larger, more complex process improvement like a Value Stream Mapping (VSM) exercise.


Fixer: One of the types of customers; the person who augments the product to help make it usable. In some cases this could be people who post information to websites.


Flow: Flow is simply how information or materials move through a system. Our job as improvement practitioners is to try to reduce or eliminate barriers to flow. A barrier to flow is what you experience if you sit at a red traffic light when there is no one around. In the workplace it can happen when paperwork moves to an individual and waits for his or her signature.


Gemba: Gemba is where the work happens. Is a Japanese word meaning ‘actual place’. ‘Going to the gemba’ means observing work with the purpose of identifying opportunities to improve – perhaps in a lobby, shared office space, or in a facilities shop.


Just-in-Time (JIT): A system designed to make what the customer needs when the customer needs it using minimal resources.


Kai-aku: The opposite of kaizen.  Change for the worse.  Bad change.


Kaizen: The Japanese word for ‘change for the ‘better’ or ‘continuous improvement’.  Kaizen represents a philosophy within which the individuals within an organization undertake continual improvements in all aspects of organizational life.

A Process Kaizen is performed by individuals or teams who focus on making improvements in a particular part of the overall work. Depending on the bookends and complexity, a process kaizen can last a few minutes or several days.


Kanban: A Japanese word for ‘sign’, a Kanban is a visual signal that triggers an action in a system. (A student arriving at your front desk lets you know he or she needs service.)


Lead-time: The total time a customer must wait to receive a product or service after placing the request.


Lean: Lean is simply an approach to process improvement. The primary principles of Lean are continuous improvement and respect for people. Lean is based on the Toyota Production System, and the term itself was coined by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones in Lean Thinking (2006) based on the Toyota Production System (TPS).


Muda: Muda is a Japanese word for ‘waste’. It is any work that does not add value. (See Waste).


Mura: Mura is a Japanese word that refers to unevenness and variation in work. It is a type of waste that happens when changes in volume or quality or demand create inconsistency.


Muri: Muri is a Japanese word that means overburden. It happens when unrealistic workloads on people or equipment leads to stress and mistakes.


Non-Value-Added Work: Activities that may be necessary, but do not add real value as defined by the customer. Some examples include extra signatures or other quality checks.


One-Piece Flow:   Moving the work as a single unit, rather than in. This allows us to complete the task for each end user, and alleviates wait time.


Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) or Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA):   The Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle is a cycle of assessment first created by Walter Shewhart in the 1930’s (see below). W. Edwards Deming later made popular the PDSA model, which is sometimes called the Deming Cycle.


Plan Identify an opportunity and make plans to improve it.
Do Test the improvement with a pilot or other small scale change.
Check Review what you learned from the pilot.
Act Use what you learned and make the necessary improvements.


Poka-Yoke:  Japanese for ‘mistake-proofing’.  One example is creating online forms that cannot be submitted until users have filled out every required field.


Practitioner (Lean): Someone who is practicing, or doing Lean. UMS Lean Practitioners have completed a 1-2 day training and are using Lean in their work (or at home!).


Problem:  Problems in a process are the gaps between actual and desired outcomes.  For example, if a student has to wait too long for her paperwork to be complete, or if faculty have to reenter information after errors happen. Problems are also opportunities, because processes can always be improved!


Process: The process is what you go through (the work you do) in order to make the Product.


Product: The product is the ‘thing’ you make. It is a singular noun and can be made plural. For example, Registered Student, Clean Classroom, Enrollment Report, Paycheck.


Pull: One of the concepts of Lean that helps prevent waste (overproduction and inventory). Ideally we should produce or process an item only when the customer needs it and has requested it:  Use one; make one! In other words, only create things you know are necessary and will be valued – like reports!


Push:  To produce or process an item without any real need from the customer. This is easy to do, particularly if we think we know what our customers need and when.


Root Cause:  The most basic underlying reason for an event or condition. If you try to solve a problem without understand the root cause you might create more problems.


Six Sigma:  An approach to process improvement that works very well in manufacturing. It is a methodology and set of tools used to improve quality to less than 3.4 defects per million or better.  Six Sigma is a statistical term that equates to 3.4 defects per one million opportunities.  The key principles of Six Sigma are Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control (DMAIC).


Spaghetti Diagram: A spaghetti diagram is one tool that allows you to visually map the movement of materials, people, or information through a space. It helps you to understand foot traffic and information or material flow.

A spaghetti diagram can help you answer these questions:

Do we bump students around from place to place?

Do I spend too much time running from my desk to the printer?

Who is involved in this paperwork flow?

Are we routing in a sequence that makes sense?


Sponsor: A sponsor is the person (or persons) who have leadership authority in a particular area. It is the person (or persons) best able to support a team and to hold it accountable for fulfilling a charge. There are types of sponsors suggested here:

Reinforcing Sponsors: These are the people who lead and help drive initiatives (This would be presidents for system-level change, deans or directors for campus-level change).

Authorizing sponsors: Have approval authority (This would be the BOT and/or Chancellor for system-level change, or a President or VP/Dean for campus-level change).


Sunk Cost: Any expenditure that has already taken place and can not be undone.  Decisions should not be made based on sunk costs! For example, do not design processes around something you purchased (software, equipment, or materials) if it creates an ineffective system.


Takt Time: Takt is a German word which means ‘beat’. Takt time is the pace at which the customer uses a particular product or service. You can determine the ‘rhythm’ needed by your customer in this way:

Takt Time: Total available time (minus breaks, meetings, etc.) divided by the demand.

Example: The managers in the campus cafeteria know that on average they serve 250 people in one lunch hour, and that it takes 30 seconds (.5 minute) to cash out each person.

60 minutes  =  Takt Time, or .24  (4 people per minute per register)


Using the formula for takt time they will know to keep 2 cash registers open in order to process everyone without creating a backlog of hungry people.


Value:  What does the Customer care about? Do they need the Product you are making? What do they need, where, when, why, and how many? If you are writing a report, make sure to ask who the audience will be. What format, how long, and what information do they need to see? In hard copy or electronically? Value is best defined by the End User.


Value Stream:  A value stream is simply all the things done to create value for the customer.  It is a series of all actions required to fulfill a customer’s request, both value-added and not.


Value Stream Mapping (VSM):  VSM is one tool used to make work visible. The current state is how the process works today, and the future state map shows improvements towards a long-term ideal of where you plan to be. It works well for Processes that require several steps, and perhaps multiple people or departments.


Waste: Waste is anything that does not add Value for your Customer.  Reduction or elimination of waste leads to improved results/outcomes.  The 8 wastes and examples identified by UMS teams are below:



Routing paper forms.

Multi/cross-campus information flow.

Hand delivery of information, rather than email or phone calls.



Lack of appropriately placed and sized storage.

Boxes of unneeded glassware → take up space.

Excessive envelopes & materials that have old logos.

Old / out of date forms.

Too many duplicate systems.


(Excess People) Motion

Looking for people.

Looking for documents.

Running around to access printers, etc.

Using copy machine to image documents rather than populating from electronic copy.

Printer too far away.

Student intake process (student runs around).



Software refreshing and loading.

Not being able to log into your phone until your computer is booted up.

Waiting for signatures.

Order approval – approved by multiple departments.

Waiting for returned phone calls or emails.

Waiting for permission to act on something (hurry up and design or plan, but can’t execute).



Multi-step signature process.

Paper forms.

Copying in duplex and filing one copy in binders.

Planning meetings without RSVP (guessing about quantities of food, chairs, and handouts).

Rescheduling meetings.

Forms that go all over the place and to many different people.

Approval – too many signatures required.

When value of the solution is less than the process or cost to acquire.

Entering data from one system to another.


Over production

Program brochures.

Letterhead / Envelope.

Too many copies.

Too many people involved in processes.

Too many mailings.



Printers jamming.

Inaccurate information in letters.

Late payments when we owe money to people because it takes too long to pay them.

Wrong/missing certificates for students.


Underutilized People

Dean driving paperwork to another campus.

Staff who aren’t challenged with new work.

Staff who are not allowed to implement ideas.


Work in Process:  Items (people, material, or information) that are partially complete and cannot be used yet.


Work Sequence:  Defined steps and activities that need to be performed in a particular order for the work to be completed.


Yield:   Produced product related to scheduled product.