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:
- I like the caveat that the process was difficult. Staff left, and people were largely resistant to the changes, it took quite a long time, etc. I think many people look at Lean processes and think that they’re made to be faster and easier. This isn’t really the case. Sure, they should help you focus on what’s important and do that in a way that should save you some time and money in the long run by reducing waste and putting you on a path to working on the right things. But it’s not easy.
- I thought it was interesting that they brought in a former patient to help with the redesign. In this case they had a “customer” directly involved in the process, but the idea that the people being impacted by the design work should be involved is a strong one.
- Towards the end they talk about continuous improvement and iteration. This philosophy, in my opinion, has many solid benefits. At Desk.com one of our mantras is “continuous improvement over delayed perfection”. Learning and adapting as an ongoing process.
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. :)