Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lean, Visualization, and Current Events

I was watching Fox News the other day and they had a story called "Health Care Reform Visual". They highlighted a video that Matthias Shapiro did using pennies to visual the financial numbers being talked about with Health Care Reform.

Now you might say, what does this have to do with Lean? Well, the answer is every thing. Lean is about learning to “see”. Many of the tools in the lean tool kit are about visualization. For example, it could be 5S for organization, value stream map to visualize the waste in our processes, spaghetti diagram for excess movement, kanban to signal a task to be done, or standardized work to display work steps. They all allow us to easily visual something that we ordinarily have difficulty seeing.

In this case Matthias took something that is hard to understand (large financial numbers) and related that to a simple visual that enables anyone to clearly see the difference. To me this visualization technique is exactly what we do with Lean and Six Sigma. Using data and actual observation there are various methodologies to visual problems. You can’t improve something you can’t see or you can’t understand. I recently blogged about a visual system using ping pong balls that helps us visualize inventory quantities in terms that anyone could understand and interact with. What Matthias did is the same thing just with a different visual and on a different subject.

Next time you observe someone having difficulty with a situation think about how you can help them make it visual. It is true that “a picture is worth a thousand words”.

If interested there are several other videos using various methods including legos, water, and more pennies to visualize some recent political news stories at Political Math Blog.

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