Consulting jargon: poka-yoke. Make your excel idiot proof

By | May 13, 2014

Poka-Yoke. This is a the Japanese phase for “mistake-proofing.” Basically, you design things so well and people cannot help but use them correctly. It prevents errors by design. Basically, awesome and practical design.

An everyday example of this is that diesel pumps are wider in diameter than gasoline pumps. . . so you cannot “mistakenly” put diesel in a gasoline car. Another example is might be charging your cellphone – but putting at cell phone in your shoes by the door, or in your bag. You cannot miss it. When I write sticky-notes to my wife, I put them on her iPhone. Cannot miss them.

Consultants can poka-yoke their work. Think about how to apply this to your work. When you give your client a presentation in pdf, it prevents them from changing it. When you draft a communication email for your client to copy/paste, it prevents mistakes (unless you make them).

There are tons of ways to poka-yoke your excel.

Here is one of the most ANTI poka-yoke examples I have ever seen. Terrible design. This elevator as two buttons on it. Up and Down?  No. . .

Medical emergency and UP

It looks exactly like the UP button. I am sure this poor design causes a lot of trouble, angst, and unnecessary “emergencies” all the time. Not cool, not poka-yoke.

ANTI Poka-Yoke

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2 thoughts on “Consulting jargon: poka-yoke. Make your excel idiot proof

  1. cavegirlmba

    My problem with this: the underlying assumption that people are stupid, and that one has to build a quasi child-proof world to limit their stupidity.

    Love the elevator example though.

    1. consultantsmind Post author

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, many organizations underestimate their employees and customers. Agreed.

      However, I believe that anything that can “bake in” best practices into products or workflow the better. It is a core concept of LEAN to de-clutter and simplify. . .which includes the design of products.

      Tangential topic, but a great TED talk on the idea of having too much choice: http://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_the_paradox_of_choice

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