Business Systems and Processes.

The Systems Thinker Blog

Fishing for Solutions to Your Business Problems?

Ole and Sven went fishing one summer and decided to rent a boat from the resort instead of fishing from the shore. They rowed out a ways and started to fish. The two brothers caught one fish after the other.

Ole says to Sven, “I wish we could mark this spot. It’s the best fishing I’ve seen since I was a boy.”

Sven replied, “I got some chalk in my tackle box, so why don’t I put an X right here on the bottom of the boat?”

Ole laughed, “You goofy brother of mine…What if we don’t rent the same boat next time.”

Fishing for Solutions

Ole and Sven deserve credit for coming up with a “system” to remember their fishing spot, but I think you would agree, their System Thinking is a little off.

How to Create Effective Business Systems

We don’t always instinctively know how to create the best business systems or processes. There is a lot we can learn from the experts, however, the most powerful learning—the learning that will make the biggest difference to you and your organization—comes in another way.

I could read a paperback about fishing and learn what it takes to be a successful angler. However, when I go to a fishing hole, I need to know quickly how to catch fish in that unique location, on that unique day. I try worms—no nibbles. I try cheese—no nibbles. I try a lure and get one bite. I try a different lure and catch a fish. I try a similar lure but a brighter color; I catch fish all day. That’s the kind of learning that gets results!

I learn to catch the fish from observation, from experimentation, and by applying feedback from my customer—the fish. Who better to tell me what works best! The steady feedback helps me to improve my system until I find the most successful way to catch fish in that hole and on that particular day.

The Japanese use a term, “genchi genbutsu,” which means to go see for yourself in order to thoroughly understand the situation. Toyota builds cars around this method of learning. Managers are frequently out on the floor, hands-on, dealing with real conditions. You learn from doing, measuring, and improving. Then you do it all again until you have a remarkable business system that gives customers what they want every time.

Immerse yourself. Swim in the pond to see the world from the fish’s point of view. Tweak your business systems and processes until you can catch your limit every day—until you get desired results.

Remember: the best learning comes from doing!

12 Principles of Business Improvement

Recently, I watched a two-hour documentary on the rise of Walmart. A regional manager said, “We get up every morning running scared, trying to figure out ways we can improve.” The narrator added, “Most of Walmart’s improvements come by taking cost out of the business.” An unrelenting focus on improvement has made Walmart one of the great international success stories.

Improve Profit by Cutting Cost

YOUR primary improvement project is also to take waste out of your business processes, the defects, and delay that increase cost and diminish customer loyalty.

You know what needs improvement; it comes from personal frustration, customer or employee feedback, and performance or financial data.

There is waste in all business processes—marketing, operations, and administration—whether in the office, the store, or the workshop/factory. Your business is no exception!

Principles of Improvement

One day, I began noting some principles that govern business and process improvement. I have compiled a list of twenty-three that can be found in my eCourse; I’m sure there are more. Twelve principles are listed below. Ponder each one carefully. Their application could profoundly affect your organization.

  1. Continuous and unrelenting effort to improve business systems and processes is the only way to develop excellence in people and organizations.
  2. Improvement activities focus on providing the customer with the best value by removing waste from the organization—defects, delay, and the resulting higher costs.
  3. All organizational improvements begin with personal improvement, a passionate desire to learn by individual study, formal education, experience, and mentoring.
  4. Improvement follows the discovery and application of laws, principles, and best-known practices that govern the outcome of a specific endeavor.
  5. The Universal Law of Cause and Effect determines all process improvement outcomes; only by improving the inputs to a process can you influence the output or results.
  6. Improvement is the result of painstaking preparation, documented goals and procedures, measured performance, and persistent learning.
  7. Standardized tasks are the foundation of improvement and empowerment of people.
  8. To improve the performance of any activity, increase the frequency of feedback to those engaged in the activity; the more frequent the feedback, the better the results.
  9. Innovation most often consists of incremental enhancements at the detail level of a business system or process, routinely producing dramatic results.
  10. Improvement efforts ignore the “trivial many” variables, or processes, and focus on the “vital few” that have the most influence on business objectives (see 80-20 Rule).
  11. “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates” (Thomas Monson, business and religious leader).
  12. Improvement is most likely to happen in an environment that promotes customer focus, clear goals, accountability, score-keeping, frequent feedback, recognition of personal achievements, and celebration of victories.

We don’t live in a perfect world, but by pursuing excellence, you can achieve amazing results. An unrelenting effort will catapult you far beyond your competition.

Find ways to improve each day. NEVER STOP IMPROVING!

The Dollars are in the Details!

We are all familiar with the expression, “the devil is in the details.” However, in business, it is also true that “the dollars are in the details.” Your profit at the end of the year is highly dependent on how well you manage the important details within your company.

The Dollars are in the Details

A recent Toyota commercial said, “We care about the details behind the details.” They mean it! For example, a Toyota project manager drove a Sienna Minivan through every state in the USA to learn about the American driver. Among other things, he realized that America is a large place, and families drive long distances. He saw a need to add many more drink holders to the Sienna’s interior. With this kind of attention to detail, the Sienna “transportation system” is now a little better at serving its American customers (from Jeffrey Liker, The Toyota Way).

Every business owner must understand this important principle: Daily attention to small details can make a big difference over time.

Details Determine Destiny

We live in an age when the best companies grow and prosper because they do the little things well, all the time. Owners and managers realize that the success of their company depends upon the effectiveness of their internal systems and processes. And the success of their business processesmarketing, accounting, customer care, hiring, production, inventory management, order fulfillment, and so forth—depends upon the careful management of the seemingly trivial and boring details.

Remember, each customer contact is a moment of truth, a time when a relationship is either made or broken. Customers do business with companies that consistently meet their expectations—that deliver explicitly on their promise. Nothing can be left to chance. Most customers keep a subconscious scorecard on how well YOU handle the details! If frustrated, they shop elsewhere.

Keep in mind that daily improvements to business processes add incrementally to your profit margin. However, the accumulation of these often-subtle innovations can have a dramatic effect on earnings over the course of a year. The financial gains can be enough to rescue an ailing company, or help a good company flourish!

One of our retail customers put planted “mystery shoppers” through their ten checkout registers and was shocked to discover a 1.5% error-rate at checkout—a yearly cost of $150,000. They made a few minor adjustments to the checkout process, and the problems were largely resolved.

Another business owner modified workflow details in her order-fulfillment process and trimmed 10% from labor costs—a $75,000 a year improvement. You can get the same kind of results!

Details Make or Break Business Systems

Opportunities abound to refine the details of your organization, and depending on its size, there can be a lot of money at stake. In addition, the marketplace will not usually tolerate disorganized, seat-of-the-pants operations that are careless with details. If you are not a “detail person,” find one who can help you out!

I know the world is filled with different personality types. And we love people of all kinds. However, when I have surgery, I want a detail-person. When I build a new house, I want a detail-person. When I get my car repaired. . . . Well, you get the idea. When it’s important, we all want a detail person. And so do YOUR customers!

J. Willard Marriott said, “It’s the little things that make the big things possible. Only close attention to the fine details of any operation makes the operation first class.”

One last detail—you are losing money every day you wait, so START TODAY!

Business Systems Dramatically Reduce Human Error

“Everyone makes mistakes.” We’ve all heard that statement a thousand times, and it is true. We can never eliminate human error. However, this phrase is most often just an excuse. With effective business systems and processes, you can reduce most of the daily human errors that are causing you to lose customers and profit.

Human Error

10 Types of Human Error

Below are ten common mistakes that people make and some suggestions to minimize them in your organization.

  1. Misunderstanding (Teach your written policies and procedures repetitively)
  2. Forgetfulness (Create a checklist or a Poka Yoke)
  3. Wrong identification (Lean 5S: mark, label, color, etc., for easy recognition)
  4. Lack of experience/skill (Improve your hiring or training systems)
  5. Willful ignoring of rules or procedures (Hold people accountable)
  6. Slowness (Remove bottlenecks; create standards of performance; measure results)
  7. Inadvertent or due to sloppiness (Apply an improvement methodology; see eCourse)
  8. Lack of standardization (Reduce and simplify; create procedures, templates, jigs, etc.)
  9. Intentional/sabotage/not caring (Warn or terminate the person immediately)
  10. Surprise (Unexpected, infrequent or random causes are more difficult to eliminate)

Don’t get frustrated with the mistakes people make. You know from Murphy’s Law that if something can go wrong, it will. Instead, realize that frequent or repetitive mistakes are the symptoms of poor systems or processes that you can control. You have the power to make the necessary improvements. If a person chooses not to follow your improved system, find someone who will.

People are the most important component in most business systems. Fit the right person to the job. Make sure they understand the process and are trained to do it properly. Set expectations and goals. Give people frequent feedback regarding their performance. Hold them accountable for results.

You Choose the Level of Human Errors

Remember: The more you strive to make a business system perfect—to eliminate errors and waste—the more difficult the task and the more money it costs. The good news is that you get to decide how many errors you can or will tolerate.

The airlines expect one bag in every 150 bags they handle to get lost. That’s why they put a baggage claim office at each airport. Airline managers have calculated that the cost of a near-perfect baggage handling system is too expensive, and the public will tolerate an “occasional” lost bag. They choose to accept this level of error in their process.

Your customers, your financial reports, or your gut will tell you when people are making too many mistakes, and when it’s time to pay the price of improvement.

Review the ten common mistakes again. Pick one that is currently frustrating you or your customers. Now, go change the business system that is causing it.

Good and Bad Business Systems – Which Describes You?

“My customers love me,” declared one proud entrepreneur. Upon further investigation, we discovered that they really did like him personally—he was charming and knowledgeable—but they hated his company’s slow response time, billing mistakes, and unfulfilled promises. This entrepreneur was living in a fantasy world that would eventually cost him his business!

Good or Bad

Bad Business Systems Lose Customers

Several years ago, I hired a company called Heritage Web Solutions to build and host my website. They got off to a good start; however, as time went on, I became increasingly frustrated. The people were very nice to work with but their internal business systems and processes for getting work done were dreadful. I tried to offer some constructive suggestions but only got token expressions of appreciation in return.

Eventually, I could not take it anymore and asked to speak with a manager. She too was appreciative of my suggestions and said she would look into it. I had little confidence, and as expected, nothing changed.

Finally, I offered to make a personal visit to Heritage’s place of business to discuss my experience and share some ideas that could really help the work-flow in their company. Through the grapevine, I knew other customers were having similar problems. However, no one at Heritage seemed to be interested. After six months of aggravation, I had no choice but to discontinue the service.

Soon after leaving, I got a phone call from a customer service representative asking why I discontinued the service, and if there was anything they could do to keep my business. Duh!

Good Business Systems Keep Customers

Compare the Heritage experience with this one.

My wife and I dropped into our local Costa Vida Mexican fast-casual restaurant. I requested a burrito from the hurried man behind the counter. I was only paying half attention when I noticed him begin to put cheese on top. I shrieked, “No cheese!” He immediately tossed the burrito into the garbage can and began making a new one. I tried to tell him it was not necessary to throw it away, but I was too late. To a Systems Thinker, waste is a terrible thing. I felt bad. He assured me that it was OK.

A few weeks later, we visited Costa Vida again. While talking with my wife, the food preparer began adding cheese to the burrito. Again, I blurted out, “No cheese!” I startled him and several other patrons sitting nearby. However, before I knew it, he again threw the burrito into the garbage. I asked my wife, “Next time we come here, would you please help me pay attention so these folks won’t have to waste another meal?”

Well, the time came. I was cocked and ready to say “No cheese” at the critical moment. There would be no burrito thrown away today! I leaned over the counter as Juan put the meat and beans in the flour tortilla. Just as I was about to say, “No cheese,” Juan said, “Would you like everything on your burrito?” I quietly replied, “Everything but cheese, thank you.”

Under the old food-service system, Costa Vida threw away many meals a year (just with me). However, a little tweak to the system—”Would you like everything on your burrito?”—and the problem is solved. No more throwaways! This company learned and improved their food-preparation system. Well done, don’t you think?

Lessons Learned

The moral of these two stories: Listen to your customers and your employees. Then make the often small, instantaneous, no-cost changes to your business systems and processes.

The road to excellence comes by paying attention to the hum of systems and processes in your business operation and making small daily improvements. One improvement a day is over 250 improvements a year. You have many possibilities just waiting to be discovered. Go make one small improvement right now, and send me a note about what you did.

Create Powerful Business Systems with Box Theory™ Gold!

There are a million business principles expounded upon in thousands of business books. However, there is only one way to put those principles into action, to turn principles into profit. Please read on.

As an entrepreneur of nearly fifty years, I have owned several businesses, including manufacturing, wholesale/retail distribution, technology, and financial services. I’ve managed business start-ups and helped failing companies become prosperous. Along the way, I became a Systems Thinker. It has vastly changed and improved everything I do—in business and in my personal life.

Early one morning, while pondering the vital role of systems, I was inspired with a concept now known as Box Theory. It is a simple statement with profound implications; I explain it fully in my eCourse, “Double Your Profit with High-Performance Business Systems and Processes.” For now, think of it as viewing your organization through a new lens, one that exposes operational details to close examination, making problems transparent and solutions obvious. The more I work with Box Theory, the more elegant it becomes as if God revealed one of his secrets for creating and managing the universe. I have not yet discovered its full potential!

Box TheoryTM Gold Software

The purpose of Box Theory is to help business owners dramatically increase customer loyalty, profitability, and growth by elevating the performance of their vital business systems and processes.

There is no doubt that the application of principles taught in my eCourse can put thousands of dollars in your pocket. Up until now, however, Box Theory was just another book of principles—powerful, jaw-dropping, life-changing, money-making principles—but only principles.

I am excited to announce that the principles of Box Theory are now incorporated into a software program that will vastly accelerate your business and system development activities. Box Theory Gold will change the way you view and run your business.


Box Theory Logo


Five Reasons to Get Box Theory Gold

Consider just five of the reasons for using this amazing software to lift your business to a new level:

  1. Identify and define every major business system and subsystem necessary to run your organization. Begin by developing or improving the business systems that provide the biggest financial payoff.
  2. Design, flowchart, organize, manage, record, store, and print everything pertaining to your systems and processes. This library of “the way we do things here” will be one of your most valuable assets, allowing you to replicate your business in new markets, sell it for top dollar, or let others run it for you.
  3. Maintain an Organization Blueprint—mission, values, strategy, goals, and structure—that serves as a foundation for building all your business systems. Align your system goals with the larger company goals; get people and systems pushing together to accomplish the vision of the organization.
  4. Track seven attributes of high-performance for each of your business systems. Apply improvement strategies used by Fortune 500 companies to reduce waste, increase speed, efficiency, and quality, and properly measure system performance.
  5. Easily create powerful business systems and processes that will turn customers into raving fans, increase sales, improve profit and cash flow, and give you more control over business operations while freeing up personal time.

Box Theory Gold is a complete and indispensable tool; you will wonder how you ever got along without it! It is as important to system development as QuickBooks is to accounting. What could be better than a powerful software system for developing and maintaining your business systems and processes!

Don’t just work IN your business; work ON your business (Michael Gerber, E-Myth Revisited). Get going today with the best-suited product on the market designed for this unique job—Box Theory Gold.

I know that effective business systems will provide the solutions you have been looking for. They are your building blocks for creating a remarkable organization. It’s time to get going—to turn principles into profit with better business systems and processes. There is no other way, and there is no better tool for owners of small to mid-size businesses than Box Theory Gold software.

Many years have passed since I wrote this article and introduced Box Theory™ software. I am now retired and making the software plus my ebook available for FREE to my business friends. No strings attached.  You can download it here or fill out a form on this page. I hope you find it of great value as you strive to grow a prosperous business.

The Primary Purpose of a Small Business Owner!

We all know that most small businesses don’t survive the first few years. Trouble is on the horizon if there is:

  • Low market demand—you have too few customers, or they aren’t buying
  • Undercapitalization—you lack money to do things right, and to grow
  • Undifferentiated strategy—you don’t stand out in a crowded marketplace
  • Difficulty reaching target market—there is no easy, low-cost way to influence customers
  • Superior competition—other companies offer a better deal (see below)
  • Ineffective management—you don’t have the right people or business culture
  • Weak financial model—your gross margin or profit margin is inadequate

Assuming a business is not over-burdened by the above constraints, the most likely reason for lackluster performance—or even failure—is that the owner has not created effective business systems and processes that successfully carry out the mission, strategy, and goals of the organization.

“Engineer” Your Business Systems

The reality is this: Your primary purpose, Mr. or Ms. Business Owner, is not to sell, manufacture, or provide a service. Your true calling is to be an engineer—a business engineer—”one who plans, constructs, or shrewdly manages an enterprise” (Online Dictionary).

Your are a Business Engineer

Much of your day should be spent designing, developing, overseeing, monitoring, and evaluating all the systems and processes that make your organization run smoothly, create value, and generate a profit—the lifeblood of your business.

If you want to be an artisan, a salesperson, or a technician, you should get a job. Building a business is a completely different matter! If you are not the business-engineer type, I hope you have a partner who is, or the budget to hire one.

Your role is to find the right people, create innovative products and services, and develop operational excellence for finding and keeping customers—all with a nice profit left over.

Be the “Best Deal”

Customers are always looking for the best deal. They reward companies that serve them well and allow the others to fail. It is how customers feel about your business as a whole that matters most. Everything—including advertising, product selection, return merchandise policy, courtesy and knowledge of employees, location, price, delivery time, cleanliness, etc.—is what they are choosing. Your entire business is your product, and it must shine throughout. When it does, YOU become the best deal!

Creating effective business systems and processes will elevate your organization and keep customers coming back for more. Are you ready to start engineering your business into something remarkable? It’s not difficult, but it is vital to your long-term success!

Business Systems vs. Government Bureaucracy – No Contest!

I don’t think the U.S. Government will ever compete with the private industry’s ability to provide services efficiently and that delight customers. Only 17% of members of the U.S. House of Representatives have a business or private sector background (compared to 61% in Canada). However, members with a background in politics are a whopping 71% (compared to 9% in Canada). “Perhaps this explains why Canada’s economic policies have been far superior to U.S. policies in recent years” (CATO Institute).

Most politicians have never had to “put it all on the line” or “fight for their lives”—financially speaking—to create a consistently well-run and profitable organization.

On the other hand, most business owners go to work every day thinking about how to reduce costs and improve results. They know that if they don’t, no one is going to bail them out. They can’t print money, and they can’t raise taxes. They must execute their business plan with precision to stay in the game. The daily discipline pushes them to be their best.

Cutting Costs

Government-run health care—or government-run anything—is filled with waste and inefficiency, not so much because people are incompetent or don’t care, but because they don’t have the knowledge, skill-set, and incentive to do things in the most effective way. Government is a bloated bureaucracy of tangled systems and processes driven by special-interest groups and seemingly unlimited resources. I am sorry to say that getting smaller, leaner, and more efficient is not a goal of government. Consider this example:

The U.S. Post Office loses billions of dollars every year delivering mail and packages. When the Postal Service—or any other federal program—has financial problems, the government solution is to raise prices, subsidize with more taxpayer money, or just add deficits to the national debt for someone else to pay later. Cutting costs, what’s that?

United Postal Service Truck

Now, look at United Parcel Service (UPS).

“Not so long ago, UPS drivers worked off maps, 3-x-5 note cards, and their own memory to figure out the best way to run their routes. That changed in 2005 when UPS began to implement a $600 million route optimization system that each evening maps out the next day’s schedule for the majority of its 56,000 drivers. So sophisticated is the software that it designs each route to minimize the number of left turns, thus reducing the time and gas that drivers waste idling at stoplights.

United Parcel Service Truck


“UPS trucks drove 2.5 billion miles last year, but the company says its package flow technology combined with right-turn routes saved 28,541,472 miles and three million gallons of fuel. The company puts almost 92,000 trucks on the road every day. But without its efficiency and right-turn routes, it would have to send out an additional 1,100 trucks. It’s not that trucks never turn left, but they’re always looking for ways to avoid it” (

Give the Job to Systems Thinkers!

The government is an expert at consuming and spending. Private enterprise, on the other hand, is proficient at innovating and producing. To survive, business owners never stop asking, “How can we improve, cut costs, and create loyal customers?” Like UPS, they are willing to invest their own sweat and money to create more effective business systems and processes—to pay the high price of success, without handouts!

My feelings are this: Give the job of health care—and everything else not allotted to the government by the Constitution—to the people who do it best. Give the job to Systems Thinkers. Let’s keep government small so you—the cost-conscious, ever-improving business owner—can GROW AND PROSPER!

Well-designed and executed business systems and processes are the only real solution to our nation’s financial woes, and perhaps yours as well!

Who Needs Business Systems?

A person recently asked me, “What do you do for a living?” I replied that I help business owners learn how to develop effective systems and processes. The person responded, “How boring; I feel sorry for you.” … Ouch! That hurt, as if he said something bad about one of my kids.

I guess I am a bit odd because I find systems fascinating. They are the secret to social and scientific advancement, and they provide the solution to many of the world’s problems. They operate in nature, in societies, in governments, in business, and in families. Smart people recognize the importance of good systems and processes. Wise people learn how to use them to their advantage.

Systems Thinking

Truthfully, if you aren’t attracted to Systems Thinking like iron to a magnet, like bees to honey, like flies to a… well you know what I mean, then you really shouldn’t be in business. I mean that sincerely. By the way, all three of those attractions are part of nature’s amazing systems. They happen for a reason, and each provides a positive benefit to the world.

Where is Your Business Today?

Building exceptional systems and processes to profitably find and serve customers is the Master Skill of the entrepreneur. Creating systems that consistently get desired results is critical at every stage of business development. So, which of the following describes you?

  • Starting a Business? Create essential business systems to organize and structure a new company that runs smoothly and impresses customers right from the start. If you begin your business as a Systems Thinker, you will never regret it. Systems and processes are your building blocks to success. There is no other way!
  • Growing a Business? Effective marketing and sales systems are the catalyst for growth. However, after the euphoria of increased demand, don’t slip into crisis mode with inadequate systems for making or delivering your products and services. Many companies can’t handle rapid growth—too many system inputs. Owners lose control. System-breakdowns lead to ruin. You must elevate unsatisfactory systems and processes to increase throughput and keep customers happy. There is no other way!
  • Fixing a Business? Most small businesses are filled with mistakes, lost time, and rework, often unnoticed by busy owners and managers. Effective systems dramatically reduce waste and inefficiencies. In a tough economy, every penny counts. Cut out the fat and put more money into the pocket of your stakeholders—including yourself—with smooth-running and cost-effective business systems and processes. There is no other way!
  • Franchising a Business? Turn your entire operation into a self-running system that provides consistent results day after day. Let someone manage the business for you, or replicate it in other markets. Once you create your moneymaking machine—and document the successful way you do things—it is easy to franchise or repeat in other locations. Good business systems and processes enable you to become independent and free of the daily grind. Again, there is no other way!

Do You Have the Entrepreneurial Bug?

You may not need to focus on system development if you are self-employed, a network marketer, or a franchise owner. Self-employed people usually have the systems in their head; they are the system. Network marketers plug into an existing system. Franchise owners buy a business with all the systems and processes developed, proven, and ready to go. They also pay a premium for this service.

However, if you are an entrepreneur, you have the bug to create your own unique systems for providing remarkable products and services to your target market. I applaud your drive and courage!

Final Note and Caution: Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can prosper without obedience to the laws that govern success. Don’t believe that you can ignore the Law of Cause and Effect—everything happens for a reason. Don’t believe that you can build a lasting and profitable business without using high-performance systems and processes to create consistent and predictable results.

Be Smart. Become a Systems Thinker!

Lean 5S: Make Your Business Systems Shine!

Last week I had to return my car to the shop because a side mirror I replaced was not working properly. The mechanic that installed the new mirror didn’t bother to check the electronic controls. (Re-work is a profit killer!)

The front office had me drive my car into the mechanic’s work area. It would be an understatement to say it was a greasy, cluttered mess. I hesitated to get out of the car.

The friendly mechanic quickly discovered that he needed a special tool. He excused himself to go on a scavenger hunt around the shop, interrupting others to ask if they had seen it. I watched in horror (A System Thinker’s burden) as he shoved piles of stuff around in an effort to locate the tool. He finally returned ten to twelve minutes later with a big grin on his face. “I found it,” he declared.

Mechanic finds lost tool

The owner of the business would be shocked by how much money he is losing each year with eight mechanics spending time looking for tools and parts every day—not to mention re-buying items that can’t be found. With a little work, the company could permanently solve this problem and stop the serious profit leak.

Are you losing money with a dirty, cluttered, disorganized work environment? If so, keep reading.

The Japanese apply a method from “Lean” manufacturing known as 5S. The principles, however, apply to all businesses, including office-based companies. It is a set of workplace rules for keeping a business in perfect order. The 5S strategy simplifies the work environment and reduces waste and non-value activity while improving quality, efficiency, and safety.

Lean 5S

The 5S of Lean Thinking

Consider each “S” below. (The Japanese term is in parentheses.)

1. Sort (Seiri)
Sorting involves selecting what you need to complete the job and removing everything else from your work area. This step frees up valuable workspace, removes unused tools, paper, magazines, files, cables, raw materials, scrap, and junk that has accumulated. Properly store or pitch all the stuff that is in your way.

2. Straighten (Seiton)
Arrange things in your work area in an orderly way so they are easy to find, use, and return to their proper location. Label cabinets and shelves, mark tools, outline work areas, containerize, tag, color-code, index, or whatever it takes—”a place for everything and everything in its place.” You, or anyone else, should be able to find the things you are looking for in a few seconds. This includes files on your computer.

3. Shine (Seiso)
Keep work areas, equipment, and desktops clean, maintained, and clutter-free. Eliminate messes, piles, dirt, and grime—buildup and accumulation of every kind. Incorporate cleaning into your daily routine. A clean area also makes it easier for you to spot quality problems and broken processes. When your work environment shines, so do your workers!

4. Standardize (Seiketsu)
Standardize your best practices by creating effective and written business systems and processes. Measure performance, provide feedback to workers, and involve people in the continuous improvement of your operations (Box Theory™ Gold software is a great tool for this).

5. Sustain (Shitsuke)
The most difficult step of 5S is to apply discipline and commitment to the previous four steps. Never go back to the clutter and chaos of the old way. Build habits of orderliness and cleanliness that will permanently increase job satisfaction and productivity. Expect and reward excellence.

Cleanliness is Profitable

A tidy and organized workplace pays big dividends! You will:

  • Decrease waste and downtime
  • Increase employee morale and pride in work
  • Identify problems more quickly
  • Establish efficient work practices
  • Increase product and process quality
  • Improve safety
  • Impress customers
  • Attract the best employees
  • Make more money

Cleanliness and orderliness may seem of secondary importance to your business goals. However, THIS IS NOT SO!

Begin today to create a house of order—a business that shines throughout!

Just Retired
Gone Fishing
Your Lucky Day

It's time for me to focus on other things. Many hours and dollars have gone into my software and written materials over the last fourteen years. Now it's time to give back. This is not a gimmick. There is nothing to buy. I give it all to you for free. If you use the software and apply the principles, you can create a remarkable company. See Below. Have fun!

Turn Your Business Into Money-Making Systems!

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Welcome to the #1 website for helping owners of small to midsize businesses create customer-pleasing, waste-removing, profit-boosting business systems and processes.

Michael Gerber, "E-Myth"

Michael Gerber

"Organize around business functions, not people. Build systems within each business function. Let systems run the business and people run the systems. People come and go but the systems remain constant."

W. Edwards Deming, Total Quality Management

W. Edwards Deming

"If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing. . . . 94% of all failure is a result of the system, not people."