I’m a huge fan of red-green streaming processes and have an updated model for you to try. If you aren’t familiar with red-green streaming, it involves separating routine and non-routine aspects of work so that the stuff you do all the time doesn’t get thrown off by infrequent tasks that can cause problems. To turn the model into a performance monitoring tool, we apply a color-coded flag system.
Green Light And Red Light Driving
Work is like driving through an intersection. When everything is going as planned, we can keep driving through the green lights. When we have a problem and can’t proceed as planned, we have to stop to fix it (red light).
There are many tasks that we do all the time without problems (frequent operations). This is our bread and butter work that rarely trips us up, so we typically have a green light and work right through.
When performing tasks that we rarely do, we are more likely to run into a red light (infrequent operations). When we get tripped up, we have to stop to put out the fires (firefighting).
The model below categorizes work into routine/non-routine and active/reactive activities. It assumes continuous improvement as a routine behavior (fireproofing).
Green, Yellow, Red, And Blue Light Driving
Infrequent operations don’t always result in problems, or red lights. Instead, these activities are more deserving of a yellow light, where we proceed with caution. We can use blue to distinguish improvement initiatives to give each box its unique color-code.
Signaling our driving status can help organize our work and our communications surrounding that work. Below is a tracking system based on weekly work in 5 areas.
In Area 1, we had routine operations until a problem on week 3. On week 4, we resumed normal operations and started a continuous improvement initiative (5S)
In Area 2, we had routine operations all week with no problems.
In Area 3, we had non-routine operations for the first two weeks and didn’t run into any problems.
In Area 4, we had routine operations all week and an improvement project during the last two weeks.
In Area 5, we had a minor problem on week 2 but green lights the rest of the way.
Red Record Button
Aside from a stop light, another common flashing red circle is the record button on a recording device. To analyze problem trends, record the details of why you hit the stop lights.