For the past several issues, we have taken a walk through the forest called standards, in an attempt to see the trees…to see what is the same and what is different—and for those things that are different, to understand why. By now, you recognize that the term “standards” and “standardizing” are flying fast and low in many disguises. It is not that easy to keep them straight and ordered. Sometimes they can get so entangled that there seems to be nothing but forest, no differences at all.

pipe tapeToday, I bravely add one more “standard” to the mix: standards that support workplace visuality. Don’t mix these up with a “visual standard” (defined in Issue 42 of The Visual Thinker) which simply refers to making one of your existing work specifications or SOPs visual. Example/repeat:  a visual standard (on right), showing the right/wrong way to tape a wiring harness.


Standards that support the visual workplace
are specifications or requirements that make the visual part of our work environment work even better. Here are six examples of many standards about the readability of addresses. Can you match each to the correct photo in the array (watch out for red herrings)?Today, I bravely add one more “standard” to the mix: standards that support workplace visuality. Don’t mix these up with a “visual standard” (defined in Issue 42 of The Visual Thinker) which simply refers to making one of your existing work specifications or SOPs visual. Example/repeat:  a visual standard (on right), showing the right/wrong way to tape a wiring harness.collage

___1. All barcode addresses must be backed in a contrasting color to clarify location.

___2. Cancelled or out-of-date barcodes must be removed.

___4. Any address containing words must use upper and lower case.

___3. Any shelf address must have an arrow, showing to which shelf that address applies.

___5. Every department will identify the top of its value stream and put its address there.

All these standards require that addresses (a visual device) attain a uniform level of function—in this case, readability. How does this fit in with last week’s topic on “standardizing visuality too soon?” Like this: none of the five standards listed above require people to make their visual devices look alike, look the same, or even be the same. There are a gazillion ways to create an address. Do them all, and ensure their visual effectiveness through the above standards.

Whether you are already a visual thinker—or a visual-thinker-in-the-making—consider this discussion and see if you can develop ideas about other standards that will help you strengthen workplace visuality in your own company. You can bet there are lots and lots. Send them in and we will share them. I can hardly wait to see what you come up with. Let the workplace speak.Think through the benefit of identifying standards designed to strengthen the visibility and effectiveness of your visual devices and mini-systems. These are standards that serve to strengthen work performance because they strengthen the devices that ensure that performance. In lieu of trying make creativity fit into a single box, orienting your visual workplace standards in this way challenges us to focus on the extent to which a device ensures (or even guarantees) a performance outcome. And to improve that we will have to think, create, invent, and experiment. These are the kind of standards that trigger us to become scientists of our processes, not simply do-ers.

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