5-S of Tokyo
When people think about super organised countries, that also build nice cars, and that suck at fighting world wars, naturally one would think of Germany. But there is a little island far, far east that shares the mentioned characteristics: Japan! And because racism doesn’t belong to our core competences any longer (see this video), we can honestly admit that we are admiring the Japanese for their ideas of work place organisation (and their ability to comply with US emission regulations).

1-S, 2-S, 5-S

Therefore we would like to introduce you to the Japanese 5-S methodology of workplace organisation. Germany might have the S-Class and in darker times had the SS, but the Japanese are pushing it next level by adding a couple “S” and end up with five of them: Sort, Set, Shine, Standardise and Sustain. We are going to look into them in detail in the following:

1. Sort

For starters, evaluate your surroundings: Go through your desk, workbench, workshop or wherever you are doing your job (or art). What do you really need in order to do your job? Keep that! What is unnecessary? Get rid of that!

2. Set

Now that you found out what you need, try arranging the items in a way to streamline your workflow. Keep often used items close and easily accessible and put items used more seldom in a place a bit further away. Make sure you can find and reach all necessary things quickly.

3. Shine

This one is obvious. Don’t trash your workspace. Whereas many people still think a genius has to work in a messy environment, this methodology thinks a structured environment resembles a structured and flawlessly working brain.

4. Standardise

This one is a bit tricky. Once you find a process that works, stick to that. Try applying the best and most simple practice to as many aspects of your work as possible.

5. Sustain

Keep it up! The standard processes should be reviewed and refined regularly.

Bonus S: Summary

These five point are my own interpretation of the 5-S methodology. There is a lot of literature available online to deepen your knowledge. A good start is of course Wikipedia and from there on, I think you are familiar with the principle of hyperlinks…


Do: Trust the Japanese
Read: Wikipedia
Watch: Your manners

Featured Image Credit: “Night Life @ Shinjuku, Tokyo” by Kevin Poh is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Written by Tom

Day-time engineer (of course!), free-time vinyl-nudger and uber-organised model citizen. When living together with Julia, we never thought we could be good examples.

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