Going Analog

By Ron Pereira Updated on January 18th, 2010

Technology is great, no doubt about it.

After all… it’s because of the Internet and computers you’re reading these words.  Not so long ago this wouldn’t have been possible.

So, let me be clear, I am not a technology snob… with one exception.

Go Analog First

If you are creating a process map, value stream map, fishbone diagram, or any other lean / six sigma tool such as this I beg you to go analog first.

And by analog I mean grab some paper, pencils, and post it notes and go after it.

You see, by going analog you’re not going to be concerned with how pretty things look or if the tops of the boxes align since, in the end, those things don’t matter!

Instead, you’re going to be focused on capturing the ideas and opinions of your team as you work to improve your process.

Then Go Digital If You’d Like

Then, once you and your team are satisfied with the fruits of your analog labor you may decide to document your work electronically using computer software like MS Excel.  I often do this but only after wearing out 10 to 12 pencil erasers.

But, please oh please, don’t run to the computer first as you’ll do nothing but limit the possibilities of your team.

Do You Agree?

What do you think?  Do you agree with me?  Do you prefer to go analog first?  Do you use a computer at all for things like fishbone diagrams and value stream mapping?

  1. Matt Hahn

    January 18, 2010 - 11:01 am

    We learned this lesson the hard. One of our engineers got ahold of the IGRAFX software and decided that we needed to do a Value Stream Map. So we all sat around a table while he fumbled with the software. It was a waste of time so I definitely agree to go the pen and paper route first.

  2. Tim McMahon

    January 18, 2010 - 11:40 am

    I agree. Do it by hand first. IF later you want to go digital to support training or whatever go ahead. You can waste more time going digital up front. I like Jon Miller’s earlier idea doing these tpe of things on a whiteboard. Much easier for people to get involved than around a montior or projector.

  3. Garth Forsberg

    January 18, 2010 - 1:13 pm

    I agree, with the exception of mind mapping software. I type faster than I write, and when running an initial brainstorming session I use one of the free mind mapping tools. As branches grow, the new topics arrange themselves and solve having to wait for an eraser, or running out of room for a topic.
    Even mapping an Ishikawa diagram is easier with a PC and projector and the mind map set to the right template.
    But all the flowcharting and value stream mapping always works much better with paper and post it notes.

  4. Mark R Hamel

    January 18, 2010 - 1:35 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree, analog first! Invariably, the introduction of the computer takes the other players out of the game. Whether value stream mapping, process mapping, flowcharting, SIPOC’ing, etc. the computer turns many otherwise engaged participants into passive observers. The combination of LCD screen and laptop replaces the tactile, larger than life, “let me get my hands dirty medium” for team-based discovery of the current state and development of the future state. Not to mention that paper is usually faster – as Ohno was credited as saying, “Quick and dirty is better than slow and fancy.”

  5. Sandhya Maini

    January 19, 2010 - 8:20 am

    I agree 100%. I do everything on paper first to the detriment of our forests. While I can type faster than I can write having post-it notes, markers and chart paper keeps people active and involved rather than passively reading my PowerPoint and telling me I made a spelling mistake. As a facilitator it keeps me more focused on capturing the ideas and concepts rather than the pretty factor of my presentation. We’ve even used a Webcam when we have remote participants so that they can see our in-room chart paper rather than doing a screen share and PowerPoint. There is definitely more engagement when you do it the analog way first.

  6. mike Wroblewski

    January 19, 2010 - 8:27 am

    Absoluting, I agree pencil (with eraser) and paper first. Or use post it notes, whiteboard or any other simple method that works for you. No matter how great the software, it presents a barrier to the actual work of getting the information. Put a simple pencil to paper to work then transfer it to digital if desired.

    What is more important to making improvment, the information or the corporate wall paper?

  7. Bernardo Gómez Baranda

    January 19, 2010 - 8:46 am

    I completely agree with this. There are lean tools that cannot be used in the computer from the begining. I think that doing that go against the principle of “Go and see it for yourself” (gemba). Because you cant use a computer in the process and you may write down all of your guesses but how many of theme are going to be true?
    I also write faster in a computer but i strongly believe that a whiteboard or even a wall is better so all the group (especially in a Kaizen) can work together at the brainstorming and so on.

  8. Penny Riordan

    January 19, 2010 - 8:51 am

    100% correct. We forget that only a small percentage of communication is the actual words spoken by the individual. The message is also communicated via body language, facial expressions, tone, volume, etc. If you’re nuched over your laptop trying to edit the map, you’ve missed a good part of the message.

    Besides, trying to edit is distracting and most of us aren’t fast enough to try and do this live. Post-its, wide width paper and markers!

  9. Brian Campbell

    January 19, 2010 - 11:19 am

    Long live the whiteboard and EXPO colored markers!! …more audience engaging & “operator friendly” than any Windows/Mac software I’ve used in 30+ years

  10. Laura

    January 19, 2010 - 12:29 pm

    I agree, different color post it notes, a marker, & 11 X 14 paper works wonders with a room full of people blurting out their ideas. For me the use of powerpoint and excel is strictly for the final product or presentation.

  11. Simon Cunnane

    January 20, 2010 - 6:16 am

    Like everyone else, I completely agree with the sentiment. I also have no problem admitting that we still use the fax machine in our company as well as state of the art laser cutting, 3D CAD and other advanced tools. Why? Because the fax WORKS and it’s simple and reliable.

    With regard to VSM, Excel is a fantastic tool but AFTER the process has been understood using paper/pencil/marker/whiteboard etc.

    Good discussion.

  12. Mark Welch

    January 21, 2010 - 7:17 am

    I agree with everyone above for the reasons stated, but I’m not a fan of the software even for afterwards. I like the maps as living, breathing documentation of the current and target states out there on the walls using butcher paper as a backdrop and colored Post-It Notes so that people can see where we are and where we want to go. We once used to put our maps in Visio and it turned out to be a waste of time. No one looked at them. If anything, it’s good to take pictures of the maps as new iterations come about, just so we know where we we’ve come from and how our ideas have changed.

  13. Narayan

    January 23, 2010 - 5:01 am

    Not just for the graphics etc, even for simple statistical computations I would recommend using a calculator and doing it ‘manually’ for the learners. This is because it makes one understand what they are doing. Using a program and plugging in data in dialogue boxes does not give the same kind of understanding. In graphics, the editing and improving aesthetics are certainly a distraction.

  14. Mark Graban

    January 28, 2010 - 10:42 am

    Spot on, Ron. I have been using A3 a lot more than before now that I’m at LEI. I’ve done them in Word on a computer and by hand with pencil and paper.

    It’s a very different experience with paper and pencil. Could be Hawthorne effect, but I think the thinking is different with pencil in hand. Either way, I’m sold on A3 with pencil now.

    Our copier has a quick “scan to PDF” if you want a backup copy or to share with a remote team. From analog to digital, indeed…

  15. Ajay

    January 29, 2010 - 9:25 am

    This may be a good idea for understanding the concepts/ and good for learners. Not suitable in the industries.

    We did this exercise very recently for our project, and at the end, we realised it is too much time consuming, activities of a project in real life are too many (if you really want to understand the linkages and their consequences in the process) to handle and link them on hard board. We had to converj with limitation of that way of working.

    I think, today there are good softwares and other tools available to visualise the project. If we really want to be productive and move forward, we need to move fast. It is a paradigm that is required to be shifted. Finally, one may make mistake (murphey law) irrespective of which approach/ tool he/ she takes. So move…

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