In Visual Management, colors, shapes, and words mean something. Red usually means “danger” or something that is meant to alert the human. When colors and shapes are used improperly, it can cause confusion, disagreement, and mistakes. This is true in most settings, but it is especially true in healthcare and in visual hospital management system settings.
Take the image below of a light switch:
Yes, it says “light switch”, but why is it the color “red”? I took this picture at the hospital where my daughter was born. I asked the nurse why the light switch was red and this is what she said:
I have no idea. I don’t even pay attention to the colors anymore.
Her comment underscores an attitude that is the outcome of poor use of visual markers: when we don’t use visual management properly, make decisions based on visual cues, then that tends to create cynicism, bad attitudes, and complacency in a workplace. When an organization has employees that are cynical, complacent, and have bad attitudes, then mistakes, poor service are more likely to happen.
Consider this image taken from the same hospital:
In a glance, can you say:
- What do those buttons do?
- When should they be pressed?
- Who should press them?
If not, then the purpose of this visual management artifact has not been met.
It’s Your Turn
How would you improve the effectiveness of this hospital’s visual management artifacts?
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