Applying the 5S principles to Project Portfolio Management (PPM)

Project Portfolio Management (PPM) is the centralized management of processes, methods, and technologies used by project managers and project management offices (PMOs) to analyze and collectively manage a group of current or proposed projects based on numerous key characteristics. The objectives of PPM are to determine the optimal resource mix for delivery and to schedule activities to best achieve an organization’s operational and financial goals ― while honouring constraints imposed by customers, strategic objectives, or external real-world factors. (Source: Wikipedia)

PPM is gaining a lot of importance in the project management sphere and is a key trend to watch out for in 2014. (Read Blog: Celoxis’ top 5 project management trends for 2014).

5S is a Japanese workplace organization methodology based on five Japanese words: Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke. This methodology is widely used by companies to improve efficiency and effectiveness of the organization through certain principles that employees need to follow in the workplace. These principles are predominantly used by production and manufacturing industries worldwide. 

5S and PPM, being unique and powerful concepts in their own right, also have a lot of similarities in terms of management accountability, standardization aspects and the need for continuous improvement. In this blog I aim to demonstrate how applying 5S methodology can add value to PPM.

Let’s start by understanding 5S better: 

  1. Seiri – It means Sort. Sort out & separate that which is needed & not needed in the area.
  2. Seiton – It means Straighten or Simplify. It is all about order & organization. Arrange items that are needed so that they are ready & easy to use. Clearly identify locations for all items so that anyone can find them & return them once the task is completed.
  3. Seiso – It means Shine. Clean the workplace & equipment on a regular basis in order to maintain standards & identify defects.
  4. Seiketsu – It means Standardize. Revisit the first three of the 5S on a frequent basis and confirm the condition of the Gemba (shop floor in manufacturing) using standard procedures.
  5. Shitsuke – It means Sustain. Keep to the rules to maintain the standard & continue to improve every day.

Source: (

5S methodology - Infographic
5S methodology – Infographic. Image Source:

Now, let’s see how we can effectively imbibe these principles into our PPM methodologies and strategies:

Seiri – In 5S, Seiri denotes sorting and selecting projects with scope that support and align with organizational goals and gains. This is not just about prioritizing the projects to implement, but also purging your methodologies of sub-optimal or dated processes and activities. At the Gemba, Seiri focuses on asking operators to take responsibility for the housekeeping of their work areas. Likewise when applied to PPM, Seiri should focus on ensuring that individual project managers take responsibility for their own projects and identify requirements.

Seiton – The key aspects for any project are its budget, resources and swift decision making. An absence of any or all of these and your project could end up in doldrums. Setting up robust processes and properly designating individuals or groups responsible for each facet are an absolute must. The whole PPM framework will be futile if the individuals who are at the forefront of all action (i.e. the project managers) don’t have processes or structure to work with and deliver. It is therefore crucial that processes and structure are already in place before commencing work on a project.

Seiso – Seiso is often the most misconstrued of the 5S principles. It does not literally imply having a clean workstation that is dust-free. The underlying meaning of this principle is fine-tuning and maintenance.  When applied to the PPM domain, Seiso would mean incorporation of automated software tools that help managers monitor projects closely and enable them to take timely & corrective actions. It also implies continuous evaluation of projects against organization goals and contribution to ROI. Organizations need to invest in developing a knowledge repository to keep resources abreast, share “lessons learned” from projects, thereby leveraging shared wisdom from past successes and failures.

Seiketsu – PMI defines project as a temporary and unique (i.e. non-routine operation) endeavour. But with PPM the scope being enterprise-wide, it becomes crucial to establish a strong governance model and standards around project prioritization, resource management, change management, finance management and risk management. The success of your PPM framework will solely depend on whether all the established metrics and processes are being adhered to. An organization therefore needs to have a strong monitoring and reporting framework for every single step in the project lifecycle.

Shitsuke – The credibility of management in an organization is determined by results and results only. To stay credible, they are required to prove that results are sustainable over a period of time. With people, processes and priorities constantly changing, the management needs to show discipline, practice continuous learning and adapt to evolving business environment to stay on top of the game. The PPM framework therefore should be flexible enough to either go with the tide or swim against it.

In my mind the 5S methodology doesn’t just complement PPM, it enhances and adds value to an organization’s ability to deliver well to its customers. Have any views on the topic? Would appreciate your comments.

References: Kaizen Improvement

Blog Author: Sanket Pai, Head, Customer & Product Experience at Celoxis
Sanket Pai



About Celoxis:

Celoxis is a comprehensive project management tool that helps companies streamline management of projects, time sheets, expenses and business processes, specific to their organization. Over the last decade, Celoxis has specialized in delivering improved collaboration and increased efficiency for teams of all sizes, both in SMB and Enterprise segments. To know more visit 

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