Krazy Kwality Posters


I really dislike motivational posters, particularly those meant to inspire quality. I guess it comes from the early Deming training/indoctrination and having been around too many environments where Quality meant a poster that said “Quality is YOUR Responsibility.” Posters are harmful when the point fingers at workers who don't have total control of a situation (such as those faced with using cheap parts bought by procurement) or when the posters send a different message (quality is important) than what non-lean management emphasizes (keep moving the metal and shut up).

The only posters that have value to me are the cynical “Demotivators” line from Despair Inc, including this gem about the value of motivational posters, that says:

“If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will be doing soon.”

Now the posters pictured below aren't meant to be ironic or funny, at least that's the appearance of it. They're all from a website that appears to sell legitimate safety supplies. Unfortunately, they've decided to add some “quality” posters to their site. Most are puzzling if not unintentionally hilarious. I stumbled across them looking for some bad motivational posters to use for facilitating a version of Deming's “Red Bead” exercise.

Below, Charlie Brown attempts to assemble a doll that hasn't gone through the Design for Manufacturing Process.


Stalin says “Get back to work, comrade!!!”

Really, is a poster like this supposed to help?

Good thing the Pharaoh finally came out to the desert floor to inspect their work. I wonder how many pyramid builders tried to “stop the line” but were whipped instead? Pharoah Stalin says “Get back to work!”

Is this almost an illustration of a stable, but incapable, process?


This is how Stalin punished workers for producing bad quality, apparently.

I wish I had something more profound to say to wrap this up, I think the posters pretty much tell the story themselves. Posters do not lead to quality. Does Toyota rely on posters like this? I doubt it.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Sloganeering — not good for the firm and, in a subtle way, it is unintenionally disrespecting people by producing feelings of guilt and low esteem when the root cause, often times, is poor management as Deming would argue, or the system itself.

  2. I can’t lie… I do love that one poster that said “Adapt or Perish.” It had some dead horse or something on it to remind us all. Of course this was also at Motorola where they commenced to fire 50,000 people since some knuckle head decided digital phones were a fad. Guess he didn’t see the dead horse picture.

  3. If a company must put up pretty pictures to prove they are doing something, you can’t do much better than flow charts and instructional diagrams related to the processes undertaken in that cell or area. Give them something that will actually help them work smarter, don’t just tell them that they should be.


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