Poke Yoke: Video Game or Business Tool?

Mike head for square box 

Poka Yoke.
You think, "Isn’t that the video game my children play?"  No, that’s Pokemon, "Game Boy" game with cute animated characters.  The challenge of that game is to train your Pokemon (pocket monsters) to do non-lethal battle against other Pokemon. 
Poka-Yoke is the Japanese term for "mistake-proofing."  Like the video game, the challenge is to see how skillfully you can mistake-proof the key tasks and processes of your business. 
This means designing the product or the task so that it is difficult or impossible to do it wrong. Like the diesel fuel nozzle at the gas pump, purposely made too big to fit into a gasoline automobile.
How can you make the key tasks of your business easy to do correctly and difficult to do incorrectly?  Hospitals color-code certain medications to make it easier to identify the adult dosages from the child dosages.  Factories post instructions for each step of the job right at the work benches.  Airline pilots use checklists to follow for landing safely (which is too crucial to trust to memory).  Another technique is to remove any unneeded tools that could be used to do the task incorrectly.  If the job involves using wood screws to attach something, provide a screwdriver and remove the hammer. 
Try it, then test it. You, or a small team of people who do the work, can design the steps (and instructions) of doing the work in a way that makes it easy to do right and difficult to do wrong.  Then test your design.  Bring in a person from another department who is unfamiliar with this task.  Don’t tell him/her how to do it.  Ask that “clueless outsider” to do the task with the steps and instructions you have poke-yoked.  If he or she can do it without your help, then your poke-yoke design is successful. If not, revise it .
When this outside person can do it correctly the first time, without help, then you and your team have earned the title Poke-Yoke Masters!  You can then brag to your children, who are likely still struggling to become Pokemon Masters.
          Mike McCarthy
For more information, go to www.qualityleadershipconsulting.com