In today’s post I am looking at UX (User Experience) at the gemba. Generally, usability (how the end user can effectively and efficiently complete the tasks needed) and UX (the meaningful and relevant experience the user has from effectively and efficiently completing the tasks needed) are two terms that are associated with product design. I would like to see how this applies at the gemba.
ISO 9241 (Ergonomics of human-system interaction) defines Usability as – a measure of the effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction with which specified users can achieve specified goals in a particular environment.
While UX is defined by ISO 9241 as – a person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service.
We should use the same ideas at the gemba for the operators. How easy is the operation in making a product? How is the work station laid out? How is the process flow? At the gemba we can view Usability as – the operator making a good product with ease, and UX can be viewed as – the operator enjoying making the good product.
Some of the terms that are associated with usability are:
- Task oriented – objective values
- Functional – works as intended
- Reliable – always works as intended
- Usable – can be used with without difficulty
Similarly, some of the terms associated with UX are:
- Experience oriented – subjective values
- Convenient – easy to work with and does not give grief
- Pleasurable – an enjoyable experience
- Meaningful – adds to personal value and significance
At the Gemba:
Marie Kondo, the great Japanese organizing consultant is famous for her question – “does it spark joy?” To me, this is a great UX question. Does your operation/process spark joy?
When you are at the gemba, observe an operation. Take a note of how many times the operator takes a tool and put it down, only to take it again for another step. Take a note of how many times the operator has to look around and reach for a tool. Take a note on whether the operator is in his or her ‘zone’. Or is he or she getting frustrated with the steps?
As Lean leaders/engineers, we owe it to our team to design a good process. This was the theme of Industrial Engineering pioneered by Taylor, Gilbreth et al. At best, this approach falls right under usability. My challenge to my readers is to consider UX for the operators. We should minimize the cognitive load on the operators. The complexity of an operation is generally a constant. A good operation absorbs this complexity through easy to manufacture design, good fixtures, poke yoke, well laid out work stations etc. This way, the operator does not have to absorb the complexity, leading to a good UX model. This idea is explained here.
One of the ideas in UX is visibility. This aligns very well with Lean. This idea is about being able to know the state of a system just by looking. Is it working properly? Does it say what is going on? Are the signals easy to interpret? Are the correct parts visible and are they conveying the correct message? By seeing that something is wrong, we can stop to correct the problem.
We should design the process for the operator and not for the product. This means that we should work with the involved operators from the start, making improvements as we go along. We should be open to their input and ideas. The UX approach requires empathy. The UX view is a big picture holistic view. Making an operation consistent, intuitive and easy for an entry level person can actually make the operation easier for the most experienced person.
Some of the UX based questions you can ask yourself (along with the ones already posed in this post) are:
- How do people learn to assemble our products?
- What makes a step easy or hard to remember?
- Why do people make errors?
- Are our products easy to manufacture, again and again?
- Are problems easy to see?
- Do we have the right tools? Do the tools fit what they are used for?
- Are they more likely to assemble the product the wrong way? Is it more easier to assemble the right way?
- Is our product easy to inspect? Do we rely on 100% visual inspection to catch problems?
- Would you do the operation? What would make it easy for you?
- Above all, Does it spark joy?
It is relatively easy to design things that work smoothly and harmoniously as long as things go right. But as soon as there is a problem or a misunderstanding, the problems arise. This is where good design is essential. Designers need to focus their attention on the cases where things go wrong, not just on when things work as planned. Actually, this is where the most satisfaction can arise: when something goes wrong but the machine highlights the problems, then the person understands the issue, takes the proper actions, and the problem is solved. When this happens smoothly, the collaboration of person and device feels wonderful.
The above passage has underpinnings of Jidoka where the idea is to stop the line or the machine when a problem occurs. The same idea is important in UX as well. Norman continues:
Human-centered design is a design philosophy. It means starting with a good understanding of people and the needs that the design is intended to meet. This understanding comes about primarily through observation, for people themselves are often unaware of their true needs, even unaware of the difficulties they are encountering.
My take on this passage again is Lean-oriented. Toyota teaches us to go to gemba to grasp the facts. Going to gemba and observing, identifying waste and solving problems is an excellent way to develop oneself.
Great designers produce pleasurable experiences. Experience: note the word. Engineers tend not to like it; it is too subjective. But when I ask them about their favorite automobile or test equipment, they will smile delightedly as they discuss the fit and finish, the sensation of power during acceleration, their ease of control while shifting or steering, or the wonderful feel of the knobs and switches on the instrument. Those are experiences.
Experience is critical, for it determines how fondly people remember their interactions. Was the overall experience positive, or was it frustrating and confusing? When our home technology behaves in an uninterpretable fashion we can become confused, frustrated, and even angry—all strong negative emotions. When there is understanding it can lead to a feeling of control, of mastery, and of satisfaction or even pride—all strong positive emotions. Cognition and emotion are tightly intertwined, which means that the designers must design with both in mind.
Norman’s above passage to me captures the essence of UX at the gemba. Our processes must be user friendly, and should always yield positive experiences for the operators.
My post has barely covered the basics of UX. I encourage the reader to research further on this topic. Always keep on learning…
In case you missed it, my last post was Wittgenstein’s Ladder at the Gemba: