Monday, April 09, 2007

Visual Management Confusion

While waiting in the drive thru line at my local bank, I looked up and noticed these conflicting signs. One sign clearly stated the roof clearance as 8'10" while the other sign informed me that the same roof clearance is 9'2". Huh?

While my car would have no problem at either height, this visual management conflict may cause a problem for others. I asked the teller about the conflicted message and she was not aware of the problem. To be fair to my bank, there was some obvious renovation work in process that most likely caused the problem and it was corrected a couple of weeks later.

These signs did get me thinking about all the signs we use at work as part of our visual management process. How many signs or other visual labels do we have at work that only adds to our confusion instead of helping us? How many are no longer valid or required? How many are incorrect? What about signs that are so worn that they can't be read? What about the bar coded tags on our stock racks that can't be scanned anymore?

We assume all the signs in our plants were put up for a reason. We also assume that the signs are accurate and needed by someone to perform their value added activities. I started asking the experts on the shop floor and found out that many signs were actually obsolete yet we never removed them. As a result, we started removing all the useless signs and improving the signs that actually were needed. Not only did our plant look better, it reduced the confusion and errors caused by poor visual management.

On your next gemba walk, take notice of all your signs and ask your experts if they help or just add to the confusion? Then work together to improve it.


Mark Graban said...

You might also want to ask if the signs only mean something to those who are there every day. You also need to see if the signs make sense to an outside first-time visitor (especially if they are navigational signs).

I've seen too many hospitals where the directional signs are put up by people who already know their way around. They forget to walk in the shoes of a first time visitor, who gets off the elevator and is immediately lost, although someone might respond, "Well, we have signs."

Mike Wroblewski said...

Hi Mark,

Good point to look at it from a visitor point of view or new employee for that matter. Many times we overlook the value of fresh eyes.