two workers in front of a toolbox meeting board
Are your Toolbox Meetings on Steroids?
April 21, 2021
Physical Distancing
Physical Distancing Challenges Stability of DMS
May 6, 2021
two workers in front of a toolbox meeting board
Are your Toolbox Meetings on Steroids?
April 21, 2021
Physical Distancing
Physical Distancing Challenges Stability of DMS
May 6, 2021
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Green is good, red is … ?

The power of the red pen

Be honest, did you finish the rhyme?  Did you say ‘bad’?

Not surprisingly, as our cognitive bias would lead us there. However, the red/green notion in a Daily Management Systems or DMS setting is one of the most powerful concepts for team-owned performance improvement. And red is not bad, red opens so many doors of opportunity.

Just picture this fictional setting: Joanne looks after the finishing department and arrives at the DMS visual board at 6:57 AM. Her Standard Work is to update three measures on the board before the 7:00 AM DMS meeting: Case packer downtime (a productivity measure), Right First Time (a quality measure) and Finishing DIFOT (Delivered in Full on Time, a customer service/delivery measure). For two of the three measures she and her compatriots Jeremy and Susan have hit target yesterday resulting in a ‘green’ entry on the board. However, on Right First Time Joanne’s team had 3% rejects, which results in a ‘red’ entry on the board. She has to physically pick up green and red whiteboard markers to make the entries.

What do you think goes through Joanne’s mind when she selects the green pen? Words like success, target achieved, etcetera right? But what do you think goes through Joanne’s mind when she selects the red pen? What do you think is the first question she will be asked when the meeting reaches that measure? Most likely something like “What was the issue?” or similar, right? Which means she needs to have thought about what the problem was. And the following questions? “What caused this? What do we need to do about this? Who will complete this action? By when?”. As a high-performing team member, in the presence of her peers, Joanne will have thought about the answers to all these questions, when she picked up the red pen!

By picking up the red pen, we create the following stream of thought in our team members’ minds: Recognise the problem, understand the magnitude, understand the cause, start defining an action towards remediation, take ownership of the action, and commit to a date! We have just gone through a process of team-owned continuous improvement!

In our earlier articles on DMS – “What is a DMS?” and later “Are your Toolbox Meetings on Steroids?” we discussed the power of involving your team in answering these three questions at the start of every day:

  1. Did we achieve target yesterday?
  2. If not, why not? What are we doing about this?
  3. What is the plan for today?

This little fictional setting involving Joanne adds more depth to these articles and provides more cause to put your toolbox meetings on steroids, more cause to focus on performance, and more cause to make them visual and action oriented.

But imagine this is not a visual board but a virtual board? When data is automatically entered on the board? When team members are remote icons on the screen? When you have multiple sites across the country? How do you digitise without losing the power of the red pen, of team-owned continuous improvement?

Making DMS digital or virtual by creating a spreadsheet and sharing this via Teams or Zoom will not emulate the power of picking up the red pen. There is no substitute for a visual DMS board set-up. Or is there? Productivity People needed to answer this question when we were faced with a changing client business needs and business environment. More remote work, multi-site integration and obviously the pandemic; more about Digital DMS and Covid-19 next week.

We have found the solution for ‘digitising the power of the red pen’. Productivity People have partnered with a leading international provider to bring a world class Digital DMS process and IT application to New Zealand. We are launching this in May, so keep your eyes peeled. Follow our Digital DMS series on our website and our LinkedIn page for updates.

About the author: Geerten Lengkeek is the Managing Director of Productivity People.