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Keys to Successful Change Management: 5-S Champions

by Jorge Jimenez
Project Manager and Senior Industrial Engineer, Logile, Inc.

One of the biggest concerns for organizations who have partnered with a company to implement significant change is how to introduce, implement and sustain the operational changes that will be recommended throughout such a project. First and foremost, the organization must manage the change in a way that they are well-received by associates. Associates must feel a sense of ownership and understand the purpose of the initiative to ensure that sustainment is achieved. In other words, how should the change management be handled as organizations roll-out new initiatives that impact associate behavior?

One of the most common operational programs that organizations undertake is Lean, which is a systematic approach to reducing waste while not sacrificing productivity. With any proper Lean implementation, one of the first steps is to implement a culture of Kaizen, or continuous improvement. The foundation for fostering continuous improvement is setting clear expectations and standards, which often starts with cleaning and organizing the workplace.

This philosophy is called visual management, with the most well-known version being 5-S, originating in Japan and loosely translating to English as Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain. The desired outcome of this program is a workplace that is clearly organized, where all of the tools and supplies necessary to completing tasks are in known locations that enable best methods, which engineered labor standards are built upon. One of the most challenging aspects of this process is that last S – Sustain. Despite being the final S in the list, 5-S is really a continuous process. Sustainment needs to be taken into account and planned at the beginning of this initiative, as like with most behavioral changes in the workplace, there most likely will be a natural resistance to this change.

The best way to address this challenge is to involve the associates from the onset, as they are more likely to embrace the proposed change if their ideas, questions, and concerns are genuinely attended to by the organization and any of their partners. This will give the associates the confidence in the changes that are about to happen and a sense of ownership and pride in its success.

One of the best ways for an organization to involve associates and facilitate change is to create a program “champion,” which will be an experienced and well-respected associate among their peers that will act as the voice of the rest of the associates, giving credibility to the program. Your 5-S champion is more than a conduit between the organization, any outside workforce management partners, and their fellow associates. The role of 5-S champion is more than a title, and these individuals should receive significant training and be given enough time throughout their workdays to fulfill their responsibilities. What may those responsibilities be though?

The overarching goals of a 5-S champion is to communicate the importance and benefits of the initiative, teach and rollout the process across the organization, measure and monitor program adherence, communicate program success and inspire enthusiasm and create opportunities to improve 5-S adherence and performance.

Communicating Importance
A 5-S champion needs to continually communicate the importance and progress of the program, as associates constantly join organizations. When 5-S champions successfully do this, a program like 5-S becomes part of the organization’s culture – but this takes time. Tools that a 5-S champion can use to communicate effectively are 5-S posters and other visuals displaying past states and current states, 5-S mottos, 5-S communication boards and 5-S newsletters describing the program and recent success stories.

Teach and Rollout 5-S
A 5-S champion is a critical component of program rollout once an organization has finely tuned their approach within a model store. Tools that a 5-S champion can use to support rollout of this effort include Kaizen (Japanese for ‘continuous improvement) or 5-S days and events, rollout kits with the necessary tools and supplies to go through the 5-S process, visuals to show the impact of 5-S displaying before and after states of the workplace, and testimonials (videos are especially powerful) of fellow associates describing the improvements of their workday because of the program.

Measure and Monitor Program Adherence
Managing a program like 5-S can be made much easier when you have measured program adherence and success. A 5-S champion can use tools such as systematic audit and evaluation tools, routine program reporting and a strategy for ranking and communicating performance that motivates individuals to take action. Also, utilizing execution compliance programs and tools does not only enable 5-S champions to understand where they may need to devote additional attention, it may bring to light underlying weakness with the overall program and opportunities to improve it.

Communicate Program Success
In order for any program like 5-S to become part of an organization’s culture, or ‘the way we do things here,’ is to continuously communicate program success and important across the organization. A 5-S champion can continually solicit feedback from managers, associates, and even customers as to the positive changes they have seen that can be attributed to the program. Regularly distributing newsletters, visuals and videos communicating new and fresh success stories keeps the importance and success of the program at the top of associates’ minds. This will continue to enable associates to feel a sense of ownership and pride in the overall program.

Create Opportunities to Improve 5-S Performance
Whether parts of the organization are meeting or exceeding program expectations or falling slightly behind, there are always opportunities to improve performance. A 5-S champion can continue to conduct 5-S days and events to communicate across the organization. The 5-S champion should collect feedback from different levels of the organization, soliciting feedback on what has worked well for areas that are doing especially well and sharing that feedback across the organization. The 5-S champion can also create a sense of competition across the organization, issuing challenges around aspects of 5-S performance, measuring success and communicating to the entire organization who did the best, as well as potentially issuing prizes for high performance and innovation.
While we are specifically addressing one step of the visual management process known as 5-S, these principles are really just ways to successfully facilitate change management and apply to most programs an organization attempt to rollout. Recognizing an associate as the “champion” for the program helps fellow associates feel a sense of ownership and pride, as well as eases resistance to the change as long as the organization is sincerely taking associates’ ideas and feelings into account. Finally, the program “champion” must be given the proper training and time to successfully perform their new duties, as change management and program sustainment is not a one-time process – it is an effort of regular maintenance that protects and allows your investment in the program to flourish.

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