What can Mr Potato Head teach us about Continuous Improvement?
By: Nicola Balloch
Did you know that Mr Potato Head, the beloved children’s toy, can help you become Lean?
Well, believe it or not, there is an exercise involving the toy that does just that!
The Mr Potato Head Exercise is a simple and engaging way to convey how you can easily monitor the impact of changes, and help create a culture of continuous improvement in your business.
Continuous Improvement and PDCA Cycles
One of the fundamentals of Lean is Continuous Improvement – continuously looking at your work processes and striving to refine them. There are various tools and techniques that can be used to facilitate continuous improvement, including Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) Cycles. PDCA cycles are a structured method for delivering continuous improvement, as the output of each stage becomes the input for the next. As the cycle allows us to collect real time data easily we can evaluate the impact of any changes we make [see the diagram below].
The Mr Potato Head Exercise
So how does Mr Potato Head fit in to this?
The Mr Potato Head Exercise is a creative and engaging way to demonstrate how useful PDCA cycles are. It is commonly used in the Healthcare Industry but can easily be implemented across almost any business sector.
Although there is sometimes variation in the delivery of the exercise, the main points are as follows. A team is given the component parts of a Mr Potato Head toy and an image showing it fully constructed. The team decides how to build the figure as quickly and accurately as possible (Plan). This plan is put in to action during their baseline build, and data about their speed and accuracy is recorded (Do). The team reviews their performance and decides how to alter their build plan in the next cycle (Check). The team builds Mr Potato Head again, and collects data on their speed and accuracy to compare their performances and assess whether the change had any impact (Act). This cycle can be repeated several times to test the impact of multiple different changes.
Once they have completed the exercise participants can see that PDCA cycle are very useful for several reasons:
- PDCA cycles can be utilised for almost any improvement goal as they are relatively simple and allow us to test changes and assess the impact quickly.
- It can be very useful, and uncomplicated, to collect real-time data. Without accurate data we are unable to measure the impact of any change we make, and therefore it is difficult to use our time and efforts efficiently.
- We will always be working towards further improvement, as our goals develop as our business grows and changes. PDCA can be easily adapted as our testing progresses, allowing us to always strive for continuous improvement.
It’s easy to see why the Mr Potato Head Exercise is such a useful tool! The knowledge participants gain from it, and the use of PDCA cycles, can easily be applied to the everyday functioning of a business. In turn, this can help create a culture of continuous improvement, growth, cooperation and striving for perfection in every area. PDCA cycles do not have to be complex, but they allow us to accurately review our processes in real time.
Skills, tools and techniques Mr Potato Head may help you with include Communication, PDCA and Teamwork.
If you have any questions, or would like to learn more about becoming Lean, you can contact us here.