Mental Muri Migraine

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.


5 thoughts on “Mental Muri Migraine

  1. Robert Drescher

    Computer filing systems and databases are my personal biggest headache. There are way to many files or pieces of information stored in too many different places for no really good reason.

    Though the single biggest Mental Muri Migraine I get is from tax systems there are just too many different ones none of which actually seem to truly achieve anything they were designed for. The only thing they are really good at is causing extra paper work.

  2. Dave

    Operators on the floor experience this a lot with “run standards”. Their work order will have a published standard, the “hour by hour” board has a hand written standard (never matches the work order), there is almost always some “old” version of run standards posted somewhere by the machine controls, and the supervisor wants them to run to some other standard because “were behind”…..

    Ask any operator about their run standard and they will most likely tell you “The standards are never right, I dont know which ones I am supposed to follow, so I dont pay attention to any of them”

  3. toastguy

    All great examples, and as noted, all too commonplace. So how do we “make these problems ugly?” Can someone share a countermeasure?

  4. Nate Clark

    What if we applied countermeasures in a systematic way that was based on the scientific experiment? Iteratively, team members would formulate a hypothesis, test it (with preconceived assumptions), document and reflect on it.

    A horizontal line from top management to shop floor employees, transparently flowing information using the PDCA cycle coupled with true respect for people, please tell me the company and I’ll sign up!

    “Kaizen is everybody’s business” – Nate


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