We facilitated some “Lean Coffee” discussion sessions in a conference room. While the format is facilitated with sticky notes and pens, I noticed the whiteboard in the room had an accident just waiting to happen.
The blue marker is different than the other three Expo markers. The blue one clearly says “FLIPCHART MARKER.”
There is no flip chart in the room.
This is an accident waiting to happen.
It’s a matter of time before somebody grabs the blue marker and writes on the whiteboard.
When this happens, many organizations, unfortunately, would blame the individual. “You should have been more careful. You should have double checked. Don’t you know to use only erasable markers on a whiteboard?”
Many organizations might react to a marker mishap by posting a sign that says “Whiteboard markers only,” but a permanent marker might still appear, since signs are the poorest form of “error proofing.”
A better, more proactive organization would find ways of preventing such a mistake.
In a previous job, I tried to mistake proof this sort of situation by buying flip chart markers that weren’t round — they were somewhat flat and didn’t roll if you set them on a table. I can’t find these markers on Amazon.com or Staples.com, so they are either not made anymore or I’m searching badly.
The “flat” markers were visually and tactilely different when you picked them up. Once you knew the system (round = whiteboard and flat = permanent), it was more difficult to make a mistake (but not impossible). It was better mistake proofing than a sign, but not perfect.
I got a great suggestion via Twitter yesterday:
at our org we have standard practice of wrapping permanent markers with rubber bands to differentiate
It seems like that would work, as well. Again, not perfect mistake proofing, but better than nothing.
Does your organization have a trick like this? Do you have any stories about shifting from a culture of blaming “be careful” statements to one that’s proactive and practices mistake proofing?
About LeanBlog.org: Mark Graban is a consultant, author, and speaker in the “lean healthcare” methodology. Mark is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. Mark is also the VP of Customer Success for the technology company KaiNexus. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.