Making the Right Thing Easy

Error proofing or jidoka (the Japanese term) is a concept that is common in the lean world.  The basic concept of error proofing is setting something up so that there is only one way to do it.  This eliminates the possibility of errors.

This concept is typically thought of as a manufacturing concept only.  It isn’t though.  It can be translated to the data world like an electronic form that will not submit unless certain fields are filled in.

The underlying thought with error proofing is to make the right thing easy to do and the wrong thing impossible to do.  This is something I learned from Jamie Flinchbaugh.

Below is a picture of what I think is a good example of this thinking.  This is outside a shop in an indoor mall.

Keeping the store clean and easy to shop is the goal.  I have seen too many stores that ask patrons to not bring in food or drinks but that’s all there is.  This store has placed a table underneath the sign making it easier for the customer to do the right thing and leave their food and drink outside of the store.  The solution is simple and easy to understand.

Can someone not follow the instructions?  Yes.  But there are fewer excuses for people not to do what is preferred.

So the next time someone doesn’t follow what you want them to do, ask yourself how can I make the right thing easy to want to do and the wrong behavior impossible to do.


Posted on September 28, 2011, in Error Proofing, Problem Solving and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Matt-great example of an important principle. Leaders expect their teams to do the right thing when it’s the hardest and most time consuming method too often.


  2. I agree with making it easy for staff (or customers) to do the right thing.

    I’m nit-picking a bit, but “poka yoke” is probably a better Japanese equivalent for error proofing.

    It’s part of the “jidoka” concept of building in quality at the source, stopping the line automatically when there’s a problem, etc.

  3. You could also ask, from a customer standpoint, why is the store telling me to not bring drinks in? If I want to shop with a beverage, isn’t that my right? I guess the store has the right to keep me out, but isn’t it more customer-friendly to just expect to have to clean up a spill once in a while? How many customers do they lose because of the “no drinks” policy?

    • In this case, the store doesn’t lose any customers or very, very few. The flip could be asked about showing respect for the customers shopping in the store. What does a customer think if they see stains on the carpet in the store? Would they come back? What if someone bumps into them and spills that hot coffee on them that Jamie just spent $50 on? Not the stores fault but a person may relate that experience to the store. It is a fine line. Cleanliness and appearance does play into perception of a customer and whether they want to come back. Sometimes it is a heavy influencer and sometimes it isn’t.

  4. Of course, the often chosen alternative is the “please” sign:

    “Please no food or drink in the store. That means you. Punishable by death.”

    OK, that’s not really what it says, but that sometimes is what it feels like. What if I just got my $50 Starbucks drink – I’m not throwing it out. So my choice would be ignore the sign, or not go in the store (which is even worse).

    This won’t completely fix the problem, but it provides a solution to the behavior you desire. Simple. Mostly effective. And pretty much free.

  5. Love the post Matt, and also the debate. I suppose it is all about increasing levels of sophistication

    How do you stop the customer drinking in the store?

    Becomes how do you allow the customer to bring a drink into the store and not make a mess?

    Becomes how do you offer the customer a free cup of coffee whilst they are in the store browsing and buying?


  6. If I were a store manager, the drink spills on the floor wouldn’t bother me. Spills on the merchandise would. There is enough spoilage from handling and trying on as it is.

    About “please” — went we went to a NASA visitor center recently, the signs said

    “Please” don’t touch the exhibits

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: