The Toyota Way in Action  

I’ve been slowly working my way back through old 99% Invisible episodes and I came across one that really grabbed me. Probably because it resonates with a lot of what I’ve been doing and thinking about lately.

In this episode the story is about how Virgina Mason, a hospital in Seattle, used learnings from Toyota’s production process to make their hospital better (and save money, etc) by striving to reduce waste (in this case patient waiting rooms, etc.) and construct an environment that put the customer (the patients) first.

This entire, multiyear overhaul started with a ball of blue yarn. The staff met with a Toyota Production System sensei and he took out the ball of blue yarn and a map of the hospital and told the staff to trace the path a cancer patient would take on a typical visit for chemotherapy treatment. When they were finished, it was an immensely powerful visual experience for everyone in the room. They all stared at this map with blue yarn snaking all over the place, doubling back on itself and making complicated twists and turns from one end of the building to the other. They understood for the first time that they were taking their sickest patients, for whom time was their most precious resource, and they were wasting huge amounts of it.

Love that. I’m wondering if I can use something similar to trace a user’s path through a web app? This seems like a really interesting way to use analytics to visualize an experience. Something like an on-boarding process, for example, seems perfect for this.

It’s a cool story about design, architecture, people and Lean thinking. I saw a lot of parallels to my own work as a digital product designer. The work itself is different, but the problems, and solutions, are similar.

I don’t want to give too much away, you should really listen to this, but here are a few thoughts and observations to think about after you’ve done that:

If you’ve never heard of 99% Invisible, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s a great show. If you have heard of it and you’ve not backed their Kickstarter, you should do that. :)


Now read this

Communicating With Your Customers is Job #1

Jon Russel over at TNW Entrepreneur highlights a few cases where startups, in this case declining startups, are failing to communicate with their users and doing potential damage to their products in the process. All startups are... Continue →