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Visual, Intuitive and Obvious

purple shirt cell phone guy iStock_000011783865XSmall

December 12, 2013

When you bought your last smart phone or tablet and took it out of the box, did you:

  • read the manual?
  • watch a video on how to use it?
  • go to a class?

Nah, you didn’t do any of those things, did you. You just turned the thing on and started tapping, pinching, and swiping.

A smartphone is a complex device. So why didn’t you need hours and hours of formal learning? Because these devices are designed to be visual, intuitive and obvious (VIO).

VIO is a powerful Lean concept, with the potential to transform your entire learning organization.

Employ VIO to Reduce the Learning Burden

When you deploy Lean Learning at the strategic Black Belt level, one of the first things you do is calculate your organization’s learning burden. Your goal is to reduce the learning burden, freeing up time and resources that can be used for more productive things.

One of the most powerful ways you can reduce the learning burden is to eliminate or reduce the need for learning by making things…say it with me now…visual, intuitive and obvious.

Here are three examples:

  • In-N-Out Burger — On Mark Graban’s excellent Lean blog, he talks about how In-N-Out solved the problem of customers throwing away reusable plastic trays. The company could have spent all kinds of time and money designing, manufacturing and deploying signage in multiple languages to train customers in the desired behavior. Instead, they designed their trash bins so the trays wouldn’t fit in the holes.
  • CT Scans — In healthcare, radiology staff used to need extensive training in how to correctly position a patient’s head in CT scanners (a particular problem with infants and childen). Now, immobilizers are used to do the positioning. No more training needed.
  • Kanban Scheduling Boards — Instead of training production workers to use complicated computer-based scheduling systems, manufacturers use large signboards with color-coded squares so that anyone on the production line can see at a glance what the status of things are.

When you make VIO part of your Lean Learning toolkit, it will change everything. Everywhere you look, you’ll see situations where simple process redesigns can eliminate or reduce the need for learning and training. Gemba Walks are a great way to do this.

A Litmus Test for New Technology

Technology is one of the biggest areas where VIO pays off. Whenever your organization is considering a new technology purchase, your job as a learning professional should be to evaluate how much the new technology will add to your organization’s learning burden, and to make sure it’s factored into the buying decision.

By the way, when you’re evaluating a new technology, there is no substitute for having real users take it for a test drive. Don’t just ask for their opinions, watch them do it and look for signs of frustration or confusion. Assess how long it takes them to perform mistake free.

And, speaking of technology, here’s a special comment to our readers who work for LMS makers: Your industry has a lot of work to do in this area! The goal of every LMS should be to become as VIO as a smart phone. Those that do will rocket right to the top.

The Lean Learning Bottom Line

Before you begin to design a learning solution, ask yourself (and everyone else involved), whether the process or device can be made so visual, intuitive and obvious that a learning solution isn’t needed. Then you’ll be free to tackle a more challenging and rewarding learning goal.

Let’s Ride!

Todd Hudson, Head Maverick


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