Ambiguous Visual Controls

24 Articles

What are Lagging & Leading Indicators? How are they related? Why are they important?

By Steve Kane - January 22nd, 2021

David Barber is CFO of Omni Industries in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  David and the rest of the senior executive team at Omni are leading a lean transformation. He wrote this article for Omni’s company newsletter to help people at

Ambiguous Visual Controls: Caution! Possible Scalding

By Jon Miller - October 10th, 2014

Labeling and signage alone are about as effective in preventing accidents  as fences are in preventing birds from flying over them. It sometimes seems that warning labels are only there to minimize the liability of the proprietors who

Ambiguous Visual Controls: Prehistoric Shark Attack Evacuation Plan

By Jon Miller - April 14th, 2012

This may be the most unhelpful emergency evacuation visual control in the United States of America. The evacuation plan resembles a journey through a shark’s intestines. Should one need to actually consult it, the ability to read

Lean Retail Exercise: “Not My Job” Edition

By Jon Miller - March 1st, 2012

The retail industry has a poor image when it comes to the motivation level of its employees. They are often portrayed in popular culture as neither well-trained nor well-paid, not always inspired to deliver a great customer experience.

Ambiguous Visual Controls: Ignage

By Jon Miller - October 26th, 2011

Imagine my disappointment, upon hauling my gardening implements across town after a long and difficult season of tilling the soil, to be informed by the store proprietor that they could not in fact help with the repair of my hoes. It&#

Ambiguous Visual Controls: Airport Hotel Edition

By Jon Miller - September 30th, 2011

Airports are full of signs. Standing in queue gives ample time to reflect on their meaning and appreciate their ambiguity. This visual control at the check-in counter made me wonder why it was necessary to abandon the better part of va

Ambiguous Visual Controls in the Park

By Jon Miller - July 29th, 2011

Walking through a park near Frankfurt, Germany I saw this sign. Checking first to make sure I had not slipped back in time to the 1880s, I snapped this photo. What does it mean? Not reading German, the only way this visual control coul

Something to Lighten Your Day

By Jon Miller - May 12th, 2011

Many advertising images are designed to make people subconsciously want to consume a product. How effective do you think this vending machine is towards that end? There is an implied lesson here about visual controls and lean thinking

The Ambiguity Deepens…

By Jon Miller - May 1st, 2011

This was found in Frankfurt airport, hanging every 100m or so in the hallway of the terminal. It’s a long narrow hallway. These signs are positioned such that if you are walking down the hall, the visual control indicates to go r

Ambiguous Visual Controls: Too Much Information

By Jon Miller - April 27th, 2011

Among the side benefits of international travel are meeting interesting new people, learning about the local culture and running into ambiguous visual controls. Jet lag slows the brain and renders it unable to quickly find meaning in a

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