Implementing effective Work Instructions

Have you ever bought a bicycle for a child? Comes in a box and the kid stands impatiently waiting for assembly. Inside the box are parts and 50 page manual written in 50 languages. Looks simple enough. Maybe you can assemble it without reading the instructions. Execute and find that you forgot the sprocket tie downs or now you have to take the back wheel of to install the chain. 

Or maybe you’re the other type of person who, in fact, reads the work instructions only to find that a step was missed or that the illustrations are so confusing – no one could understand. 

One of the most important characteristics of great leadership is the ability to communicate. Thus, organization that communicate well have serious strategic advantage over the competition. 


Implementing effective Work Instructions

By Eric Roberts

Written work instructions

You should be proud. Your team did a great job doing a value stream map. Not a single step was missed. The result, a 30 page document that no one will ever take the time to read. 

Reality is, that written work instructions are more of an instrument for disciplinary action than actually making a process easier to understand. 

Telling a new employee to read thirty pages, have them sign off on a sheet indicating they did – then expecting them to effectively run an operation is LUNACY. Regrettably, this is a standard practice every day. 



It’s time to start making work instructions that align with today’s culture. Today, your next generation work force goes to YOUTUBE and other forms of media to watch a video on topics of interest. 

Now is the time to capitalize on that very media to make effective work instructions. Lose the paper and build the video library. Leaders will find immeasurable productive benefits. 





Visual Workplace, Visual Factory

VISUAL TASKS (Visual Workplace, Visual Factory)

In a leaders quest to build a Visual Work place, it is often very difficult to determine if tasks have been completed. We found this solution as a creative method to make tasks visible.


T cards are available in different sizes. The paper is cut in a specialized manner that can be hung in a slit rack. T cards are commonly used for visual Kan-Ban systems.


By simply using both sides of the T card it is easy to create visual go/no go board for work instructions. Placing the basic task on the card, employees simply flip the card over and replace it in the rack when the task is done. By doing so it is very easy for supervisors and other lead staff to go into a work cell to determine if the task has been completed.

Better Way Inc. is a provider of T-card solutions along with specialized software for populating data on the card. Click on the link below for more information.

T-Card Solutions

Tasks to be completed


At the beginning of the shift all of the cards are flipped to red.

Task Completed


During the shift or operation, T-Cards are flipped over to green indicating that the task is complete. This action makes it very easy for a supervisor to review required action items in the line. We also see opportunities where this type of system could be easily utilized for audits.

(Visual Workplace, Visual Factory)




When we talk about cleaning a facility it is often confused with creating a Visual Workplace. There is an entire process to address cleanliness and clutter known as 5S but we will get to that in future blog posts. The Visual Workplace is much more that organization.


Imagine traveling the interstates without exit signs, without GPS, or without a map? Can you fathom the inefficiencies? Imagine doing it with out a cell phone! Over the years technology and visual illustration have literally changed the way we look at the world. Now ask yourself as a leader, why our organizations do not reflect the same.

In a perfect world, we need onboarding and training to be – “simple”. As leaders, we often expect new employees to hit the ground running. Do they? Most organizations spend a couple of hours training basic company rules then send employees to the floor expecting fantastic results. Ultimately, without a visual workplace program in effect, we are setting them up to fail.

In a dream facility (where everything is always perfect) the operation is so well illustrated and automated that literally ANYONE OFF THE STREET can immediately begin work with little or no onboarding. A bridge too far? Consider the following:

  • When you go to an unfamiliar grocery store and you want to find bread – do you NATURALLY look up for a sign over the bread aisle?
  • When you want to turn onto a street from as dictated by your GPS – do you NATURALLY look for a road sign?
  • When you go to a fast food restaurant – do you NATURALLY look for menu?
  • When you go to a department store and are ready to check out – do you NATURALLY look for checkout lane with a light or indicator that is is open?

I’m guessing you answered yes to all of these questions. So why wouldn’t you want to gain a competitive advantage by building a facility that is as NATURAL as the outside environment where the workforce is coming from? By investing the time into the Visual Workplace, leaders can drastically reduce onboarding time. 


It goes beyond sign and floor striping. Remember the last time you wanted to fix something at home or had technical questions? I would venture to guess that you when straight to youtube. Within minutes you found out how to fix that leak or repair that squeak.  However, when leading your workforce – you create an arsenal of paper documentation for your processes, try to manage them through a revision system, and worst of all – expect your newly onboarded employees to spend hours reading information they will forget after 12 minutes.

Leaders get creative with visual workplace techniques by placing themselves in the in the role of the receiver. Step back and pretend it was your first day on the job – what could be done to make the environment more NATURAL. Take the time to query new employees to find out what opportunities for improvement exist in the onboarding process.


Before you can go VISUAL it is beneficial to invoke lots of 5S events. Afterward, take the time to sit with staff and employees and BUILD A VISUAL PLAN. Utilize available tools to get the most of what works with your budget. Focus on building an environment that is NATURAL.