The Urinal Fly

Hello everyone, a colleague of mine recently reminded me of the “Fly in the Urinal” method to problem solving. Not exactly high-tech, but effective.

This particular method seeks to reduce…ummm, how do I say this – “carelessness of men while standing at urinal” Aka: intoxicated men peeing all over the place.

Problem statement: Drunk dudes miss the urinal resulting in a mess, slipping hazard and complaints from other men’s room customers.

Desired end-state: Stop drunk dudes from peeing on everything and everyone within 2 feet of them.

Solution: Encourage center urinal peeing by giving them a target

The urinal fly has proven very effective with spin-offs that include the Bull’s-eye and faces of unpopular people (think Osama bin Laden). While humorous, there is a Lean Six Sigma lesson in there; It’s called “Visual Management”.

Green Belts and Black Belts learn how the effective use of visuals (colors, shapes, pictures) can drive desired behavior without the use of words. This is often more effective and sustainable then traditional signage. Imagine posting a sign saying “Please don’t pee on the leg of the dude next to you”. The problem with this solution is intoxicated men can’t read, it could even make the problem worse by the now-squinting, intoxicated person trying to maintain balance while reading the sign…you get the picture. The fly is not a full blown Jedi-mind-trick, but does play into men’s instinct to hit what they are aiming at.

We (facilitators and Lean Six Sigma leaders) try to imagine that customers or employees can’t read. The challenge becomes how to I communicate information or drive desired actions without using words (or as few words as possible)? You can find many innovative and creative examples with a simple internet search, or you could visit any kindergarten classroom in the country. Elementary schools are wonderful examples of the effective use of visuals to communicate, reinforce, teach and drive desired behaviors. Schools also incorporate audible systems (bells) to effectively time the movements and transition students from one activity to another. There are many fantastic Lean Six Sigma concepts in every elementary school…which could you use at your place of work? (Signage, sounds, pictures, lines, arrows, colors, shapes, etc) Visual management is one of several Lean Six Sigma tools that serve as an alternative to the “training and discipline” approach to problem solving; which assumes that people are the problem. So get creative, have a little fun and think visual.

So the next time you hear “Drown you nasty fly! Drown!” coming from a men’s bathroom, you’ll know the whole story.