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Gary Kaplan, MD
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle

Virginia Mason Medical Center Chairman and CEO Gary Kaplan, MD, explains "5S," his hospital's process for organizing the workplace and eliminating waste—even in cluttered executive offices.

Kaplan: The 5Ses are sorting, simplifying, sweeping, standardizing, and self-discipline. When you 5S, you save time, you improve productivity, and you make things much more reliable and safe. In the operating room, before 5S, we would have a tray that the anesthesiologist would use. The medications would be in syringes and labeled, but they'd be set randomly on the tray. Today, we have our anesthesia "shadow board." There's basically a template on that tray for where each of the tools and syringes are located.

You can also see 5S in offices. Take the quintessential desk that's full of papers scattered all over the place. When you do 5S, you sort initially and get rid of everything that's unnecessary. You then simplify—create a place for everything. You create a sweeping system where you control the workplace using visual cues so there might be, even on desks, outlines of "this is where the books go," "this is where the financial reports go."

The fifth "S" is self-discipline—that is the work that's required to maintain 5S. We've asked that all areas of the medical center be 5S. We do reviews routinely to ensure that that's the case.

Molly Rowe

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