Learning to see through a new lens

Eye glasses

Recently my family went on our first ever skiing/snowboarding trip to the mountains. After several staycations at nearby Table Mountain, Saskatchewan, we all felt the pull of the “big hills.” We decided to try out Fernie Alpine Resort in southeastern British Columbia during the recent Easter Break.

Despite our gumption and excitement to take on this new terrain, the size of the ski hill (10 lifts and 140 runs) and over 3,500 vertical feet of terrain were a bit intimidating. So, too, was the fact that we were spring skiing and the avalanche hazard at the time was moderate.

My 13-year old son was the most nervous of us all. Nature has already delivered our family one nasty blow, so his anxiousness is real and reasonable (for him).  We had the good fortune of riding up one of the longest chairlifts with a seasoned, local skier who patiently took the time to talk to us about avalanche science and what the ski hill does to ensure skiers’ safety.

He talked about — and pointed out — many things. But one thing in particular that caught my eye (and my son’s) were these signs (or visual controls, to use some Lean parlance):

Caution Sign resized

Closed sign resized

Fernie attracts skiers from all over the world, so they have to think globally when creating signs with zero room for misinterpretation. How ingenious: a yellow sign indicating caution or warning that you are skiing in avalanche terrain and a red “STOP” sign warning skiers to stay off a run.  Look closely.  To go from yellow to red, ski hill staff simply flip and pull down the sign.  The warning and closing signs are not only crystal clear in their intent, but they’re also two signs in one. How cool is that?

I realize getting excited about signs might sound geeky to some. Before I began my Lean training, I really never paid attention to these sorts of things before.  Now I do.  And you know what? These signs gave my son real-time information about where (and where not) to ski and some reassurance that his safety is a priority at Fernie.

Can you think of any similar examples of visual clues, from health care? Where are we doing well with this, and where do we have room to improve?

What did you think of this post? Click below and let us know.

, , ,

2 Responses to “Learning to see through a new lens”

  1. F Hector
    April 23, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    I am not sure why I am missing the message? On my computer I see a one half The yellow sign.says Avalanche Area Caution This is fine. On the other full sign saying closed is mostly black, not Red as indicated and I cannot clearly see the figures below??? I do not follow the message???? Are there more like me?? Why???

    Another perhaps unrelated comment. This has bothered me from the outset If LEAN means what it says, what happens when the LEAN group realizes that there are more workers than needed. Are they then truly laid off as the term Lean seems to suggest? Would these statistics then be posted publicly giving evidence that in this respect Lean does in fact mean a leaner more efficient grouping? Another question – Does LEAN mean more dollar efficient given the same or better treatment of patients and if so are these and other efficiencies posted somewhere for the public to see???
    Another question- Why can I not print a copy of my questions in the event that I get a answer>

    • Bonnie Brossart
      Bonnie Brossart
      April 23, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

      Hello Hector. My point with the signs was to show an example from a non-healthcare setting the importance of clear, unambiguous signs to convey to a customer/user an important message. I thought this one was particularly effective. I was struck by this example as there was one sign that was used for dual messages (i.e., caution and stop/do not enter).

      Regrettably there are many (mis)interpretations of the term Lean. Lean fundamentally is all about removing waste (or non-value added activities) from the patient/users perspective. My two cents – there is more than enough work for each and every person working in the health system. Where I think there is opportunity for improvement, is having the right people doing the right jobs. It is not uncommon I have learned in health systems that apply Lean principles and methodology to commit to not reducing their workforce. However, there is the expectation to re-train / redeploy those resources where needed.

Leave a Reply

Share your opinions and questions about this post. We welcome different points of view; but ask that you be respectful and constructive.  Your comments will be moderated before they appear on the site. Your Email address will be kept private.