Error Proofing Excel

I spend a good amount of time working in Excel, analyzing data and such. I often accidentally hit the “F1” key in a clumsy attempt to hit “Esc”. The keys are right next to each other and each key is “half height” on my laptop keyboard, meaning they are close together (see the picture to the left).

Every time I hit F1, my brand new laptop, with Windows 2000, goes into fits and convulsions trying to load the Microsoft Office help window.

My computer is practically useless for 3 to 5 minutes while help loads. For one, this seems unacceptable for something like a “help” application, to be so slow.

I know I’m just complaining about something in my weekly work, but we can use it to think about lean. Secondly, it sure would have been a thoughtful error proofing on Microsoft’s part to assign “Help” to a key that’s harder to hit by accident, such as F9. I know the history of function keys, before we had a mouse on every PC, but still, I think it’s time to rethink those function keys, especially from a user perspective.

Think about this when designing industrial machinery or having something built. Is the user interface and/or buttons “error proofed”? Make sure buttons that are critical like “Emergency Stop” are easy to find and that you can’t accidentally hit a different button (or accidentally hit E-Stop when it’s not needed).

Please check out my main blog page at www.leanblog.org

The RSS feed content you are reading is copyrighted by the author, Mark Graban.

, , , on the author’s copyright.


Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please scroll down to post a comment. Click here to receive posts via email.


Now Available – The updated, expanded, and revised 3rd Edition of Mark Graban’s Shingo Research Award-Winning Book Lean Hospitals: Improving Quality, Patient Safety, and Employee Engagement. You can buy the book today, including signed copies from the author.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Please consider leaving a comment or sharing this post via social media.

Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an eBook titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

Posted in: Blog

7 Comments on "Error Proofing Excel"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    Does Lenovo routinely sell “brand new” Thinkpads with Windows 2000?

    I think your problems wouldn’t be as severe if your computer and OS weren’t half a decade old.

  2. Mark Graban says:

    “Brand new” means new to me and less than a year old after production. Windows 2000 in an unfortunate side effect of a corporate IT structure that moves slowly. I should have Windows XP, I agree, but that isn’t my point. The keyboard/function key design could still be better.

  3. Mike Wroblewski says:

    Hi Mark! Great post on waste that most of us live with if you regularly use a computer keyboard. I have two dell laptops, one purchased 4 years ago and another last year, both with windows xp. I experience that same problem of hitting F1 accidently when trying to hit F2, Esc or even the numbers 1 or 2. I really don’t like the F1 help key. It is pure muda to me. Some may say that this problem is an operator error (I also suffer from keyboard dyslexia at times). Whatever my keyboard skill level along with my key stroke mistakes, this is the only button that holds me back by opening and then closing an unwanted function.

  4. curiouscat says:

    Here a coping mechanism: Disable the F1 key in Excel.

    These type of features needs to be made easier to use. However, at least they exist; so when you have enough motivation you can figure out how to get them to work.

    I hope this actual helps you. I have thought it would be neat to post to my blog and get a solution provided by a reader.

  5. Joe says:

    Mark, I thought I had a reasonable idea here for poka yoke on the F1, until I checked out the link curiouscat made above. That’s a good one, to add the single line to a start up code. Way better than mine.

    My idea was lower tech, but it has worked for me on keyboards. I borrow some fingernail polish from a co-worker (no, I don’t have any of my own :-) ) and I will either paint the key i DON’T want to use red, or paint the key I WANT to use some shade of green that catches the eye. I even did this on a company-owned computer and it was not a problem.

    Sounds dumb, bit it works. Don’t many lean ideas? And I’m WAY OVER worrying about that!! Plus, for my 52 year old eyes, it makes a difference.

    Kaizen, all the way.

  6. Joe says:

    One other comment, Mark, because I think it is illustrative of problem-solving in general.

    An anonymous user above suggested the problem was your OS and hardware. And then threw a brick at a “decade old” package.

    OK, probably an Apple user. Probably right. But most of us don’t have a large choice on operating platforms or hardware to use. And tossing hand gernades at an unfixable issue only adds stress and does nothing to improve the situation.

    Poka Yoke seeks to deal with the situation as it is and improve it, within the realm of control of the user. In most groups, there seems to be one or two who find more comfort in posing an unworkable solution than in facing the situation as it is. I have found it best to identify this tendency when it arises, deal with it and get the group to address the situation as it is.

    Thanks.

  7. Mark Graban says:

    Thanks for the tip, Curious Cat. I’ll have to pose other real lean problems to see what help I get :-)

    As for the comment about the first post, yeah, that wasn’t very productive. The snotty tone of the “new computers don’t have Win2000” did NOTHING to solve the problem. You’re right, that’s NOT the attitude I would want on one of my lean teams.

    I think it’s one of the 10 Hirano commandments of lean to focus on what can be rather than what can’t be, something like that.

Post a Comment

CommentLuv badge