I saw this in Home Depot the other day and it made me laugh. I really tried to practice what I preach, “It’s not the people, it’s the process. Focus on improving the process first.” But I couldn’t help from thinking that a little common sense could have prevented this hilarious mishap. I also thought, I bet my seventh grader has more sense than that. So I showed it to him. Without me saying a word he laughed out loud and said, “Now that’s funny.”

Common sense isn’t that common and what is obvious to one person is not obvious to another. We all have different skills, background, knowledge and perspective and each of those contribute to our definition of common sense. I think I have some common sense but heaven knows I’ve made some dumb mistakes in my life, many of them worse than printing a Spanish Product Guide in English. So maybe there are some elements of Lean philosophy and tools that can help overcome the gaps in our own common sense.

Here are a few that I thought could have helped the team at Home Depot.

  1. Stakeholder Analysis– Clearly those tasked with making the guide were not Spanish speaking. Getting those who would actually use the pamphlet involved and looking at things from their perspective may have helped!
  2. Voice of the Customer –Ask those who would use the guide what they need. What would be useful to them? Use their input to create the guide.
  3. Pilot the Improvement – Create a version of your Spanish-speaking guide and try it out at a few stores with Spanish speaking employees. Gather their feedback.
  4. Standard Work (Checklist) – Have a standard step in your guide creation workflow where another set of eyes checks your product before publication. Yes, inspection is waste but so is producing defects.

Can you think of others?

As I walked out of Home Depot I realized that it’s easy to blame mistakes on people. After som thought I also realized that taking a little extra time to look for a solution that improves the process is also easy.  We can overcome human error, make up for our lack of common sense and deliver great products.  And even when we mess up, at least it might make someone smile!