It's funny, hosting a bunch of Lean thinkers as we did at our recent Northeast region Shingo Prize Conference, that participants tend to be constantly on the lookout for small improvements, sometimes humorous ones like the one depicted below. Forgiving the poor photo exposure, can you see the inconsistency? Bathroom confusion. After a laughing conference participant pointed this out to me, I watched for a while, noting pauses and near misses, but happily no mistakes.
This kind of misdirection is not unusual, and manifests itself in many forms. In the office, redundant databases, for example, are commonplace and frequently out of sync. Which one do we believe? In the factory, an assembler has three documents – a fixture instruction, an assembly drawing, and a bill of material – and none of them agree. What should she do? Conference rooms at a hospital are booked by computer, but the room reservation sheet on the door of the conference room does not agree. These inconsistencies are a part of everyone’s workday. Some will rise above our problem thresholds, others we numbly work around. Cumulatively they give us headaches, and regrettably sometimes have far more serious consequences. Call this mental Muri, every bit as stressful as the physical Muri that gets a bit more attention in the Lean world.
At the close of the conference, I mentioned the bathroom sign confusion to a representative from the conference venue. He smiled and politely said, “Yeah, we should really fix that at some point.”
What gives you a Mental Muri Migraine? Share some examples or, better still, some countermeasures you’ve put in place to reduce the mental Muri.