News: The Five "S" Process

The Five "S" Process

When I trained at Honbu I used to keep one of the towels reserved for cleaning the floor at the end of class close by me so that I could sop up the sweat that gathered in puddles on the floor beneath me during wazapractice. During one such class, I took advantage of a momentary break in the training to clean my space with the towel. When I was finished I lightly tossed it toward a support pillar on the main floor of the dojo for later use. "Don't throw!" Kaicho yelled. "Place down on floor." He seemed very annoyed with me for my oversight. Needless to say, I never forgot the lesson: tossing or idly placing anything in the dojo was not acceptable behavior for a Seido karateka.

In large organizations around the world, managers are confronted with two important considerations: efficiency and effectiveness (quality control). How, they ask, can their employees be encouraged to become more efficient and effective? There have been many approaches to answering this question. One of the most effective originates from Japan and is called "The 5 'S' Process."

The 5 'S's are: SeiriSeitonSeisoSeiketsu and, finally, Shitsuke. Loosely translated, these stand for organization (tidiness), orderliness, cleanliness, standardization of methods and, finally, discipline. Regarding the first S, Seiri, this relates to taking out the trash and other things that no longer serve a purpose in the workplace. Seiton, or orderliness, is slightly different than Seiri. It refers to putting the things that ARE used in the workplace back in their proper place when they're not being used. Seiso means that everyone cleans up, not just those whose job it is to do that. Everyone is a janitor. Seiketsu refers to the creation of rules for how to clean up and a routine to make sure it gets done. Shitsuke, or discipline, is the commitment everyone makes to practicing the first 4 S's all the time.

Of the 5, Shitsuke is the most important. Without everyone's commitment to always abide by the first 4 practices, bad feelings can arise. People start to notice if they alone are the only ones keeping the shop clean. Resentment of those who don't chip in starts to creep into the workplace and to interfere with the work itself. 

Shitsuke, discipline, is a core value in the Japanese culture. It is conveyed to every child from the first moment of their schooling experience to their last. The closest equivalent we have to it in American culture is "team spirit," or perhaps the sense expressed by the famous motto of the Three Musketeers: "All for one and one for all!" Still, these only approximate the intensity of feeling the value of shitsuke holds for the Japanese.

In Seido we practice the 5 S's every time we enter the dojo. We all work to keep the dojo clean and we all have (or should have) an idea of how things are to be done. Everyone participates in the process, and we are all committed to doing the best we can. This practice not only helps to keep the dojo clean and student morale even-keeled, it establishes a way of life that we can take into our jobs. Though it may seem like it doesn't make a difference in the "dog eat dog" atmosphere American culture, practicing shitsuke slowly and surely distinguishes you from your competitors. People notice the difference. Shitsuke, the commitment to best practices, separates you from the ordinary precisely because of your close attention to the ordinary. Gambatte kudasai!

See you in the dojo.


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