Tag Archives: lean

The new USB will be poka-yoke and user friendly

USB connectors

USB connectors

Can you remember getting frustrated while plugging in USB devices in your desktop and/or your laptop? The USB socket has a treacherous esthetic property which fails an extended definition of poka-yoke. Let’s take a look.

Not regarding which angle you’re looking from, the USB connection socket looks like a perfect rectangle. The difficult part is on the inside: the small rectangular connection point can go only one way in. Also the USB connections are located next to each other with only millimeters apart so that it really hard to take a look.

Twenty years ago, when the USB gate was created, it was probably meant to be poka-yoke. I had many discussions at school during our Quality Major about why it was not, so I feel kinda released that they finally had the insight themselves.

What’s poka-yoke?

Poka-yoke is a Japanese term used for mistake-proofing or also fool-proof design. When you create something fool-proof, you can not use it in a wrong way and create defects.

Examples of poka-yoke

  • New lawn mowers are required to have a safety bar on the handle that must be pulled back in order to start the engine. If you let go of the safety bar, the mower blade stops in 3 seconds or less.
  • The dryer stops operating when the door is opened, which prevents injuries.
  • The driver must press the brake pedal before starting the car.
  • Electrical sockets can only be used in one way.
  • Induction cooking plates only work with certain types of pans.
  • Toys for children in their first years.

Examples of lack of poka-yoke

  • A CD-ROM can be inserted upside down.
  • You can fill up your car with the wrong fuel because the different fuel pumps have the same handle.
  • A pencil sharpener can be used for sharpening pens.
  • Manual fill of soda drinks.
  • Renewing your cartridges in a CMYK printer.

Proposal: an extended definition of poka-yoke

To me poka-yoke is not successful if it only prevents damage by mistakes. The definition lacks some basic user-friendliness. That’s why I would like to add following to the poka-yoke definition:

poka-yoke is mistake-proofing design that makes the use very obvious and native (even from first time use).

Using this definition, following are examples of failed poka-yoke:

  • Bathroom sinks with the little hole near the top of the sink to prevent overflows where the overflow leads to your floor or closet.
  • A light socket can only take in certain types of light bulbs, but if you would put your finger in it, you get elektrocuted.
  • A floppy disk can only be inserted in one way, but it is not obvious which way.
  • Just like the USB connection, the Ethernet connection tried to be poka-yoke but failed in it (the same reasons as USB). Yes, you cannot insert it wrong, but it’s not obvious in which way to insert it.
  • And last but not least: the USB connection gate. The connector can only be inserted one way, but it’s not obvious in which way to insert it.

How will USB change?

The new USB will have a ‘Type-C’ connector that can be plugged-in in any direction. The smart socket works in any occasion. Sitting on your knees behind your desktop looking at the USB connection socket will be of the past. Getting frustrated by trying to plug in the second USB device in your laptop will also be of the past.

Other advantages of the new USB will be:

  • One universal micro socket (opposed to the many sockets that are available today).
  • Faster power charging for connected devices.
  • Other connections (like eg. firewire) will be deprecated (the ambition of the new USB).
  • High speed connectivity and data transfer.

More information about the new ‘Type-C’ connector

Addtional reading

Poka-yoke at Wikipedia

Poka-Yoke | you can’t go wrong

With new USB connector, no more wrong-way-up cables

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Ron Rolemodel takes it serious

The importance of role modeling explained with a short fable of Ron Rolemodel, CEO of ChemCo and big supporter of ChemCo’s “Safety First” program.

Safety linesRon Rolemodel has been a manager for years. He really grew up with the company ChemCo and knows it from the inside out. Recently he got promoted to CEO. Safety is the number one priority for ChemCo, since accidents with chemical spills and vapors are listed as the most hazardous work accidents.

Ron is a convinced follower of the Lean Methodology and he refers to it whenever he gets the possibility. His colleagues even refer to him as the “lean preacher”. But Ron is also aware of the importance of role modeling at the work floor. Especially by him. Ron knows that ChemCo’s employees look to him and copy his behaviour. Almost a bit like his grandchild does with the grandchild’s father, his son. This way Ron makes sure his behaviour is always consistent with that what he preaches. Safety first. No exceptions.

One day Ron was a bit late for a visit to the work forces at the factory floor itself. Did he know he was going to be put to the test! “Damn”, Ron thought when he rushed down the stairs, “I’m already five minutes late and I hate it when I cannot make my meetings. It sets a bad example to others.” Ron came down from the top floor of the factory and made it to the bottom.

On the bottom floor there’s a big door where forklifts pass through. When a forklift approaches the door from the other side, an infrared sensor detects the vehicle and swings open the door automatically. The big doors are fire secured and weigh very much. A swing at an unexpecting passer-by could knock him out cold. On the floor there are safety lines printed, but with the door closed, they look strange and their logic seems far gone. Notwithstanding the many safety measures and the “Safety First” program at ChemCo, these safety lines and area around the door are never respected by the personnel at the bottom floor. Accidents at work were an exception these days, you know?

Ron didn’t notice it, but all eyes were on him when he approached the door. His employees know safety is important to him, and Ron knows they know. Even in a rush to be not too late, Ron decides to follow the safety lines. This means he has to take a small detour while the group was right in front of him. They are just a few meters between them and he could easily haste through the safety zone, but still he made the detour like there was a big wall between him and them. Even if this looked very strange to a distant observer.

Ron knew that if he was not going to respect the safety regulations himself, all the following efforts that the company would take the next years, would all be in vain. Ron knew this and Ron sticked to ChemCo’s “Safety First”. Ron walked his talk. His employees see that he sticks to it and now get confirmation that’s “Safety First” is not the next organisation fab.

Role modeling

Role modeling is an important concept that is used a lot in the education of our children, but is often forgotten when we start our working day. “Practice what you preach”, “walk the talk” and “actions are louder than words” are statements that are shouted a lot, especially in big change programs. But when the push comes to the shove, it is often forgotten.

In big change programs we often try the change culture, but culture is a non-tangible thing. Culture is the some of all behaviours of the people in the organization and can even vary among different sites of the organisation. Nothing so hard as changing culture. It is best to start with changing behaviour.  Make a list what behaviour is wanted and what is not wanted. Often you can start with the values and principles that are important to your organisation, like openness, honesty, empowerment, etc.

How do you start? With small steps and actions. There’s no need for big communication and programs, but you do need some ort of a charter and consistent behaviour. And it starts with you. Today.

Additional reading

Change culture by changing behavior – part 1: role modelling

Leading in books – Leadership lessons by Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon

Viral Change

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Ecopolicy game – Coaching at performance review meetings

Ecopolicy game

Ecopolicy game

In June we did the Ecopolicy game as an exercise for coaching at performance review meetings (or also: steering meetings).

The game was done in two phases and the goal was:

  1. To lead or attend a performance review meeting and have a similar experience like the management of your organization has each week, month, quarter, …
  2. To coach an attendee of the performance review meeting and practice your coaching skills.

Game contents

You and your team are the leaders of Cybernetia, a cyber state that needs a government to survive. Politics, production, environmental stress, quality of life, education and population are the measured sectors of human life and are expressed in KPIs. In the game these KPIs are all interlinked in such a way by mathematical relations that each decision results in a chain of effects and repercussions just like in real life.

Lead or attend a performance review meeting

In a 20 minute long performance review meeting the ambassador decides together with his 5 ministers on the policy of Cybernetia. Some and certainly not all KPIs are under the influence of the government.

You get 5 attempts of 20 minutes to lead your nation, Cybernetia. In one session, the goal is to take at least 12 decisions in up/down grading the KPIs which you can influence.

If the quality of life for your population is getting worse, your population will question your policy. When it escalates, the population does a coup d’etat and you loose.

What did I learn as board member?

In the first round I was the ambassador of Cybernetia and together with the board, we determined the policy.

  • A performance review meeting can be very stressful! The first round went almost completely to trying to understand the tool.
  • When all board members are coached individually you see strange behavior and changes in behavior between the board meetings.
  • Because you are also coached individually, the board sees your behavior changes and reacts on it.
  • Group dynamics are always happening. I repeat: group dynamics are always happening! Even if the team work moments are very short, the group will go through the forming, storming, norming and performing stages. Be aware of it.
  • After each performance review meeting there is a recap session. Use it as ambassador to give feedback on people behavior. But don’t wait to the recap session if the behavior is not acceptable during the PRM.
  • Use your dashboard. Look at the facts. When emotions take over, our rationality stays behind.
  • It is not needed as team leader to know all the details.
  • It is not needed as team leader to facilitate the discussion. If somebody else is better, let him do it.
  • It is needed as team leader to take decisions based on uncertain elements.

What did I learn as coach?

In the second round I was the coach of a minister of Cybernetia. I watched my coachees behavior, the group interaction and the process.

  • Write down facts and observations, not interpretations. Interpretations are assumptions that you have the right answer.
  • Coaching on behavior and facts is a hard job. You need to be observing and writing at top speed to get everything right.
  • Giving feedback is not always easy. You coachee can go in resistance. Use a much facts as possible. Pick your battles.
  • Try to ask questions during feedback talks. Challenge, but try to understand. Why did he do that? Did it have the wanted result? What could have gone better?
  • If your coachee doesn’t do anything, he still doing something! Don’t fall in sleep when your coachee remains below the radar. Why is he doing so? What does his body language see? How is the group interaction?
  • Observe the process of decision making.
  • After the coaching talk, make a summary. What is the most important thing he learned? What will he do different next time?

More information on the game



News message


The inventor


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The PDCA cycle applied to your diet

For the readers that got here searching for an approach for their diet: please read further and work out your plan!

Explaining the need for installing a performance management culture in your organization is not an easy job. There are many approaches for it and each has its disadvantages. The key is that you’ll have to attune your approach to your audience.

Following metaphor has worked good for me when explaining the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, the base for a performance management culture, to people on the work floor.

PDCA cycle

PDCA cycle

The PDCA cycle applied to your diet

It’s January first and you decided in your new year’s promise that you want to lose weight. It’s the same promise as the year before, but this year you’ll make it stick.


First of all, you plan for results and pick an ambitious target: by the end of the year I want to weigh 10 kilograms less. The target is ambitious, but not unrealistic.


How are you going to do it? For losing so much weight, you need some adjustments to your diet. No more sugared soda drinks, only one time a week French fries and no whipped cream, except for at celebration parties.


To make sure you are on track to losing 10 kilograms by the end of the year, you need to check upon your progress. There are two types of measurements here:

  • Lagging: after the facts. These are history and cannot be controlled anymore.
  • Leading: predictors. These can be monitored and controlled.

As a lagging KPI you can follow-up the grams and calories you have eaten every day in your diary. Other measurements could be the number of “good” and “beat” food you have eaten that day and a smiley face with your personal perception on the day (I have actually seen this in practice!).

Because the lagging KPIs cannot be controlled anymore, you also need a measurement you can influence. As a leading KPI you measure your weight every week. But wait, isn’t this a lagging indicator too? Indeed, the facts have already taken place, but measuring and checking up upon your weight is a predictor for you making your target in time: 10 kilograms less by the end of the year.

To make sure you reach the target, you can create a plan for your weight with milestones along the way (during the year). For setting out this KPI, you need a base (starting point) too: your current weight.

Create a realistic plan for your weight loss: the summer holiday period is probably not the best time to lose much weight.

When you have a base (starting point), target and plan (intermediary milestones), you have your plan for action! (see figure)

Diet plan

Diet plan


Time to follow-up and act upon your progress. When your measurements are not according to plan (see February), it’s time to act. What is the reason you’re not making your target? It could be many: wrong KPI, wrong base, your diet is not strict enough, too ambitious target, too ambitious plan, defect scale, … Do a Root Cause Analysis and find out the real reasons why.

If you know the reason why, you can adjust can take the lessons learned along in the Plan and Do steps of the PDCA cycle. You can adjust the Plan (less weight loss, other deadline) or adjust the Do (more strict rules for not eating unhealthy food).

PDCA cycle for your diet

PDCA cycle for your diet

Lessons learned from positive formulation

The careful reader has probably noticed that it’s difficult to pick to items in the “Do” list of the PDCA cycle. The way is formulated now, it’s an exhaustive list that needs to be adjusted every time again when we see the diet is not working.

If we use the power of positive formulation then the Do step can be reformulated in such a way that it triggers our brain in the right way and is more durable.

Do-step positive formulated

Do-step positive formulated

Much success for the readers actually on a diet!

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Dance your way into change

During large change efforts you need change agents. People convinced in the better of the change and willing to take the first steps, to make the first move.

This goes beyond management. Although getting sufficient management support from day one is an important need, you need change agents, change leaders, on the work floor too.

These profiles are the ones taking the first steps and showing the wanted behavior. Coworkers who are early believers will join and mimic their behavior. And by time more and more (believers or mimickers?) will join until the critical mass joins too.

Don’t invest too much time in those who are opposed. Work around them and try to get the masses into moving. Follow the high lights and invest in them.

The analogy of the dancing leader is shown in following video on YouTube:

First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy

It tells the story of one person dancing crazy at a festival. At first, people think “what the hell is he doing there?”. But after some time a first one joins, some more time is past and few others join, while at the end, the group is getting so big, you’re crazy if you would not join!

First Follower - Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy

First Follower – Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy


When all those people start to dance on different places in different ways, it could be that you need choreography too. I saw this in action at another festival, Tomorrowland 2012. On a certain time during the performance of Yves V, there were multiple groups at multiple location trying to do the same dance. There was only one person who could see what was happening, but he could also see that it wasn’t going to work this way: it was the DJ. So he stopped the music and gave following feedback:

Ok Tomorrowland, listen. We are going to try and move this forward to epic proportion.
Every now and then you see a formation breaking out here and a formation breaking out there, and it looks absolutely amazing.
And I know you want to be part of it.
So what we are going to do: is just keep it simple. We’re going to move things forward, move things backward. Move things to the left, move things to the right. Ok?
Follow what you feel, do what you like, you don’t have to listen to me. It’s all about house music.
One two three four, backwards, forward.

The DJ took on the roll of coach here, not regarding if it was a manager coaching, or a designated coach (eg. lean coach). To give feedback, he used the feedback framework :

he described facts (multiple groups trying the same dance)
he described the effect it had on him (it’s not going to work out this way)
he gave advice (dance instructions)
and his advice was for you to consider (you can choose what you do, it’s all about the music)

To conclude, for making a successful change effort, you need believers willing to lead the dance and you need coaches to make sure we’re all dancing to the same beat. The rest will follow.

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Change the way your team reports

TeamNot every team runs its huddles on the same way. This has some implications on the amount and type of information that is received.

Let’s focus on acquiring status information from the team.

The facilitator leads the huddle

The facilitator (not regarding if this is a hierarchical lead or not) runs a tour-de-table and ask every team member about his specific tasks.

Jane, how is it working out with assignment X?
Is assignment Y still on track?
John, how is it working out with assignment X?
Is assignment Y still on track?

This advantage of this approach is that the facilitator has control of the conversation and is able to acquire the needed information to steer upon in a fast way.

The disadvantage is that the facilitator is asking closed and specific questions. There’s no room left for non-result oriented feedback. The danger also exists that tasks that the facilitator is (becomes) not aware of other tasks the team member is working on. Underlying frustration and stress could not get to the surface and get the attention it needs. Further, the facilitator can also be experienced as controlling the work too much or checking up on people.

The facilitator hosts the huddle

When the facilitator doesn’t lead, but hosts the huddle, the facilitator makes sure that everybody is heard, but the type of questions is different.

Tell me, Jane, what were your three most important things you did last week and how did it go?
What are your three most important tasks planned for this week?
Do you see any impediments? If so, how can we help?

The advantage of this approach is that the team member can reply what he wants. It could be that assignments X and Y were planned, but he didn’t have the time due to another unplanned assignment Z with higher priority. Further, there’s more room for team interaction and discussion.

Are you working on that too? I got the same request by mail!
Last week I had the same problem. Let’s discuss the solution after the huddle.
Don’t wait for a reply of John: he called in sick for this week.
Can you gives us more details about…

After the feedback from the team member, the facilitator can check upon himself to verify if the team member has the right assignments scheduled for this week. Taking into account the team priorities.

The disadvantage is that you need strong facilitation skills to make sure your huddle doesn’t last too long (because of the increased team interaction). There’s also more preparation of the (content of the) huddle needed to make sure the facilitator has the overall view on team priorities.


The first approach, leading the huddle, will feel most natural because that’s what we’re being taught all our lives: checking if everything is fine and on track.

The second approach will require the facilitator to give control more out of hand, but will make problems and priority issues surface earlier in the process.

There is no one approach, no silver bullet. Check your current situation and see what fits best.

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Gemba: advantages for the work floor

ChessGemba (or also Management By Walking Around) gets management more on the floor and involved in day-to-day business. The goal of gemba is to get a closer connection on the floor, experience what lives and help a hand where possible.

Gemba only works when it’s done sincere and not because the manager has to (checkbox behavior).

(Remark: if we talk about manager in this blog entry, we mean the modern leader who is a manager/leader/coach of the organization).

But what are the advantages for people on the work floor?

Management is easier accessible.

When management leaves the ivory tower, they make themselves available for people on the work floor. They are maybe not that accessible at first, but when the people on the work floor are used to seeing management around, the barrier to speak with them is lowered.

Management has another perspective.

Management gets on more places and has access to more information. With this privilege they are able to see things in another perspective. Compare it with a helicopter. They can provide help and insights.

Management has an example role

When management walks the talk and does its gembas, the work floor will see and learn that this behavior is accepted and expected. Nothing so confusing as management that says X, but does Y. People will start doing the same and start learning (more) from each other.

Take blocking issues along

In every company there are elephants in the room: problems so big that you need to talk about them. But some of them are there for ages and were not handled: ancient IT environments, silo politics, non-value adding rules and processes, … Raising these questions again with management can provide an escape from the current impasse, but only if management truly commits and really does something with the issue raised.

Gemba to support

Management can visit team/project meetings and daily huddles to support change efforts. This is more an advantage for middle management than for the work floor.

Even with all these advantages the work floor is not leveraging the best out of the gembas. What’s holding them back?

Unknown, unfamiliar, uncomfortable

When people on the work floor are still turning their heads and look surprised when management is on the work floor, you are still not doing enough gembas. It will look as if there is something serious going on (going wrong) and management is needed on the floor.

Give feedback

What is the manager doing here? Is he expecting feedback? If so, to what level of detail? Team members don’t always know what management is interested in. Make sure your expectations and role are clear.

Escalate issues

It’s not that easy to escalate to a (higher) manager. What is he going to do with the information? Does it make sense to report to him? What will my direct manager say? Will my direct manager get the feeling he’s passed by?

A lot of advantages and a lot of challenges…

Let’s do a gemba to improve upon it.

But next time, before you leave, check first what you want to accomplish and how you will know that this is done.

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Smart people have smart problems



This week I was asked to help with a problem solving (RCA – Root Cause Analysis) workshop. From my experience with RCA workshops I know that the workshop will succeed or fail from step 1: the problem definition.

When I got the actual problem(s), I was overwhelmed. It was not clear to me what the exact problem was and how I would get it to fit into the head of the fish bone (Ishikawa diagram).

Even when I applied my task force of six honest serving-men (What, Who, Where, When and How), I couldn’t get the problem sharp.

After talking with the participants, other lean coaches and searching on the Internet I got the problem sharp.

Let’s share some tips and look at the advantages!


Make your problem SMART: Specific – Measurable – Acceptable – Realistic – Time bound.

Workshop participants cannot disagree with a SMART problem because you have a measurable specific facts.

Try to formulate your problem in an elevator pitch.

If you cannot formulate the problem case in 1 to 2 sentences, it’s probably too complex, too blanket or too vague.

Check in advance with workshop participants if they agree with your problem statement and if not, what they propose.

This way you can avoid (expensive) discussion time during the workshop.

Don’t try to capture root causes hidden as effects in the problem definition.

Use only five of your six honest serving-men (What, Who, Where, When and How) for your problem definition, the sixth (Why) is covered in the RCA workshop.

Focus on the problem and not already on the root causes. These root causes will surface during the workshop.

Agree on the problem with the group before you start looking for the root causes.

Make sure everybody is focused and on the same page.

Hang the problem (formulated in the elevator pitch) on a visible spot during the workshop.

RCA workshop can take some time and it’s helpful to have to problem available to refer to in times of need.

Example 1 – four steps from a bad to a good problem statement

Bad problem statement:

“Our external vendor is delivering bad work”.

Why: too vague, not specific

Bad problem statement:

“Cooperation with our external vendor is going bad.”.

Why: too blanket

Bad problem statement:

“The external vender has delivered software with many defects because is not working like agreed”.

Why: has root cause in it, vague (“like agreed”?)

Bad problem statement:

“The external vendor has delivered software with many defects and the analysis was not on time”.

Why: multiple problems in one statement

Good problem statement:

“Our external vendor delivered software with 67 defects in the database layer for software release X on May 2nd and because of it the cost rose with 10%”.

Why: specific, measurable, factual, no discussion, has effect

Example 2 – two steps from a bad to a good problem statement

Bad problem statement:

“The project documentation is unclear and not up to date, so is not used by new team members”.

Why: multiple problems in one statement

Good problem statement:

“Project documentation in the maintenance team is not sufficient for training new team members which leads to twice longer orientation times”.

Why: specific, factual, no discussion, has effect


The advantages to put enough time in the preparation of your problem definition are:

  • Everybody is on the same page. Focus.
  • The problem is a (measurable) fact and no assumptions are made.
  • There’s no discussion about the existence of the problem.
  • Because the problem is a fact, it’s an issue that needs to be resolved.
  • If your problem is defined SMART, you can measure the effectiveness of the solutions you find & apply.

“A problem well stated is a problem half solved” – Charles F. Kettering, US electrical engineer & inventor, Head of research for GM (1876 – 1958)

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Resistance to change and the emotional roller coaster

All change leaders and agents will confirm that change goes together with resistance. In the book “Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard” by Dan and Chip Heath is the metaphor of the elephant and the rider described.

The elephant and the rider

The rider is the rational side of man, the elephant expresses the emotional side of man. The rider wants to go somewhere, but he has to control his emotions.

The rider  and the elephant (from "Switch")

The rider and the elephant (from “Switch”)

It looks like the rider is always in control, but because of the difference in size, the impact of the rider is small. This is no problem when the rider and the elephant want to go in the same direction.

When the emotions run out of hand, the rider looses control and no rational reasoning will help to calm down the emotions. The emotions are like an elephant on the loose and the first thing to do is to get the emotions back under control.

You can recognize this in situations where you have taken decisions, blown up bridges, etc when your emotional side took over (and which you probably regret now). Eg. driving through a red light when you were in a hurry.

The elephant-rider metaphor helps to understand and relate to people who are in resistance during change efforts. When their emotions take over, there is no need to provide rational arguments: they will not be able to take over control.

A more obscure example is a person who’s going to commit suicide by jumping of a building. His emotions have taken over control and few to none rational arguments (“you have a great family”, “you have a nice job”, “people are dependent of you”, etc) will make him change his mind.

How to deal with it

You can apply a lesson which is learned from horse farming. When a horse breaks loose, you cannot pull the rope and get it to return, you will have to walk along with it for a while and gently lead it back to its stables.

Show some empathy and try to understand, but don’t give all your rational arguments because they won’t have any effect.

Additional reading

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard” by Dan Heath and Chip Heath


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Learn Value Stream Mapping with coffee and pizza

How would you bring a concept like advanced problem solving to an audience of experienced leaders and managers from various areas, including ICT and Business?

You could ask them to bring along a process, a problem, an opportunity, …

I decided to dive into the deep part and tried it. Without big success. Nobody did their preparation and in the other case the process brought along was only familiar to part of the class.

So I had to find a generic solution:

–          Which offers insight into the area of problem solving.

–          Where every participant can relate to.

–          Which is challenging enough for experienced participants, but not too challenging for non-experienced participants.

After some experiments and with feedback from participants & peers, I found a concept which meets all demands: Value Stream Mapping… with coffee and pizza.

The principle

Coffee – As teacher you have following case:

Your family in law (6 persons) is on a visit at your place. You have a classic coffee machine (not a full automated George Cloony Nespresso machine)  and all needed materials & products to make coffee. Your coffee beans still have to be grinded.

Why coffee?

Making coffee is a simple process which is familiar to all participants, even the ones that do not drink coffee. With making coffee there’s not much to do in parallel or in a different order, so it’s a great case to map the process in a very limited time.

Even though it’s a simple process, many things still can go wrong.

There’s one disadvantage: there’s not much to improve in parallel flows, so it covers only a part of the theory.

Pizza – The groups have following case:

You are the owner of a pizza house and have to make a pizza Hawaii.

Why pizza?

Pizza is also familiar to all participants, even the ones that do not like pizza. But making pizza is more complex than making coffee. Even when every group has the same end product, they will all make it in another way, but not too different way.

This will result in discussion in the group about the order and preconditions, but the result of the different groups can also be compared. There’s some value here in trying to understand the others’ point of view.

Lesson flow

High level flow:

  1. We start with a small piece of theory.
  2. As teacher I apply the theory to the process of coffee making. (about 10min)
  3. The group gets the pizza house assignment: they have to develop the value stream of making a pizza Hawaii. (about 15min for each step)
  4. Review of the group exercise: what went good/bad? What did you learn? What will you do different next time?

We go through following rounds:

  1. Create high level value stream (SIPOC).
  2. Create detailed level value stream (VSM).
  3. Find critiques.
  4. Improve process.
  5. Find measurements to see if your improvements are working.

Materials needed

  • Brown paper
  • Permanent markers
  • Post-its in various colors
  • Tape or magnets to attach the brown papers to the wall.

Time needed

2 hours


  • Create a few empty brown papers for each group. These brown papers have to be large enough to capture the process, but small enough to make it harder for them.
  • Divide the class up in groups of about 3 to 4 participants.
  • Notify the class that some “unexpected interruptions” may occur during the exercise.

Unexpected interruptions

During the exercises I add unexpected interruptions as an extra difficulty by:

  • Making the fire alarm go off (not the real one!).
  • Taking the dominant group member to a (supposed) meeting with the GM.
  • Letting a group member fall sick (time-out for x minutes).

These are actual all events I experienced in real life during workshops 🙂

Tips & tricks

  • If you notice there’s chaos in the group, assign a facilitator with as only task… facilitating! Every round the group will have to reassign a new facilitator.
  • After each round, review the group experience.
  • After each round, review the role and experience of the facilitator.
  • Pay attention to the level of detail of the VSMs to make sure every group has the same tempo and end result.
  • Challenge the participants. Are those all critiques? Aren’t there any other solutions possible?

What do they learn?

  • Working together in a group to solve a problem.
  • Visualizing the process.
  • Dealing with unexpected circumstances.
  • Facilitating a VSM.
  • Working with the correct level of detail.
  • Understanding different points of view.
  • Thinking about how to measure success.
  • Learning to evaluate and improve.
  • Dealing with feedback.

Why should I do this exercise?

It will help you explain a tool and way of working on a pleasant and easy way. If you make your presentation good, you’ll cover all learning areas: seeing, hearing, by viewing examples and experiencing.

I’ve received some good feedback after the workshop/course, so I would say: try it out & let me know what you learned from facilitating it!

Are you looking for another fun lean exercise? Check the “Lean Cup Factory” blog!

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