Lean 5S (sort, simplify, shine, standardize, sustain) are about organizing work space so we can be more efficient, effective and productive. All Lean concepts are about how work gets done. There are many benefits Lean 5S can provide including improving safety, decreasing down time, raising employee morale, identifying problems more quickly and establishing convenient work practices. They are also used to strengthen employees’ pride in their work, to empower employees to sustain an organized work area and even to promote stronger communication among staff.

How effective is your communication? How Lean is your communication?

Communication is a two-way dance and involves an offer that is accepted by the audience. It is as much about how content is delivered as the content itself. The most effective communication happens when content is delivered in a process that can be “heard” by the audience. This involves attention to not only words, but also to tones, gestures, postures and facial expressions.

Effective communication has many strong connections to Lean principles and concepts, including 5S. When communication is done right, it helps employees and leaders work together in a safe and open environment. It increases the quality of personal and professional lives. Everyone feels respected and appreciated for their unique gifts. Down time is decreased as positive conflicts are handled without drama, which means that effective problem solving is expedited. Because employees feel safe and connected, they feel pride in working in an organization where their gifts are valued; therefore, they continue to contribute to improving work processes.

Like Lean, effective communication is about the how; it is about how communication takes place, as well as what is said. With that in mind, here are the suggested 5S of communication: size up, seek, simulate, stabilize and sustain.

Size Up

Be open, trustworthy and transparent. Be open to understanding different personality types and individual needs; be able to assess employees’ preferred communication styles and respond accordingly. Sizing up is about being self-aware of your personal communication needs, strengths and blind spots, and being able to shift communication styles to cater to others’ needs.


Seeking is about aligning the way you communicate to cater to individual preferences. It is about being resourceful, willing to discover ways to effectively connect with others, encouraging creativity, innovation and problem solving while appreciating and leveraging personality differences.


Polish your communication and compassion skills so you know how to motivate employees based on their different needs. Simulating is about being inquisitive and curious about what makes people diverse and leveraging that diversity.


To stabilize means to consistently apply effective communication by connecting with, and motivating employees, based on their needs to resolve conflict and eliminate drama in the workplace. This requires a leader who is persistent, willing to stick with employees who are different, willing to help without judgement, who can listen and empower.


Be proficient in communication practices so you can motivate employees based on their needs and connect at their level, consistently and effectively. It is about accepting people the way they are – listening and holding themselves and others accountable. It is about recognizing your own propensity to create or participate in drama, and having the compassionate skills needed to lead a healthy organization.

Lean principles and strategies don’t work without effective communication. So, how Lean is your communication?

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