Posted by Dr. Gwendolyn Galsworth   |  

In last week’s issue of The Visual thinker, we took a closer look at the many forms of motion/moving without working. Motion is so commonplace, so ordinary, and so chronic that it is often hard to see it at all. That is why I prefer to define it like this: Motion is anything you have to do or else you could not do your work—but it is not your work and yet you still have to do it.

Motion is as widespread as it is hidden. Unchecked, it seeps into every nook and cranny of the enterprise and eats away at value. That’s why we call it corporate enemy #1, a big bully with questions as its henchmen. I could also say that questions are the virus of motion. They spread to everyone, everywhere and look “normal.”  They look OK.  They look unavoidable. In some organizations, they even look like friends.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Questions rob us of our time, our confidence, and our work. Plus they have a peculiar multiplier effect. You interrupt someone to ask a question and the two of you are automatically in motion. If he/she happens not to know the answer, another person will get interrupted for the answer. Now three of you are in motion. And if that other person also does not know…pretty soon the entire department has motion-sickness—all in the name of helping you!

We spoke of this last week and agreed that it’s no use to feel guilty about it.  What is of use is to change it! So I “gave” you a memo pad so you could track your questions—and the First-Question-Is-Free-Rule so you could invent visual devices to erase your questions. This week, I present The Six Core Questions as a second way to turn your questions into visual answers.

 he Six Core Questions

A visual workplace makes answers readily and visually available to anyone who needs them at any time, as close-to-the-point-of-use as possible. Answers to what? Answers to the six core questions, one of the building blocks of visual thinking. Look at the slate on the right to see what they are:6core

When the answers to some (or all) of these core questions are missing, the workplace is starved for information —and quality, lead time, safety, and costs are the first casualties.

This week and next, I’ll show you examples of how the six core questions make your answers visual and imbed them—up and down the stream of value that defines your work and mine. When you make answers visual, the six core questions suddenly become: the Visual Where, the Visual What, the Visual When, the Visual Who (or which tool or machine); the Visual How Many (or how long), and the Visual How (your Visual SOPs). Let’s start with a Visual Where example, below.

If you learn no other visual concept than the six core questions, you could go far in populating the company with splendid visual answers. Yes, they are that powerful. As you do, you and your work area move that much closer to informational transparency—highly-functioning operations where what is supposed to happen does happen because of visual answers. Let the workplace speak!


The Visual Where starts from the floor up—with borders for everything that casts a shadow. Notice this parts address is not very specific. If mix-ups happen, make this address more precise. (Fleet Engineers, Flint, Michigan)