Posted by Dr. Gwendolyn Galsworth   |  

Last week we learned that it takes 8 to 10 minutes to recover from an interruption—any interruption, no matter how long or short. That means: not just to resume your work but to resume it at the level of focused attention you had before the interruption (think of the quality implications…). And I promised you a handy way to gauge the impact of those unanswered questions. Whether you are CEO, supervisor, operator, engineer or field staff, use the following Pop Quiz as a surefire tool for calculating the impact of missing answers by tracking their footprint: motion/moving without working. Try it!

Step 1: Take a pocket memo pad

(it’s small enough to carry with you all the time for two or three days). Flip the pad open and write these words on the inside front cover: Number of Times I Am Interrupted.

• Then keep track. Make a slash mark each time someone interrupts you with a work-related question. (If you want to follow the letter of the “law,” count emails and phone calls too).

Step 2:

Flip your memo pad over and inside the back cover write: Number of Times I Interrupt Someone.

• Keep track. Make a slash mark for each time you interrupt someone (anyone) with a work-related question. (Want to go the whole nine-yards? Count the emails you send and phone calls you make.)

Step 3:

Do this for two to three days (or even a week). Then add up the number of times both things happen. Voila! You have a quick and nicely accurate measure of the need for visual information-sharing in your work area.

• Recruit a handful of co-workers to undertake the same research. Then compare scores.

Bonus Step-A:

Go a step further and, as you are tracking the number of interruptions of and by you, note the nature of each interruption. That is, write down the question: the exact words. This will add mightily to your understanding of information deficits in the workplace—the invisible enemy.

This is a terrific exercise for associate teams as well—in offices and on the production floor. Not only will you have proof that the invisible enemy exists, you will be able to undertake a second Bonus Step.

Bonus Step-B:

You now have all you need to turn the invisible enemy—those information deficits that triggered both kinds of interruptions—into concrete answers: visual solutions that will hold that needed information and make it permanently available to be pulled to me or you, when and as we need it. See the example.


The question is permanently answered—visually.


Excuse me. Do you know when’s the next mail pickup?

Exciting, isn’t it? And I hope you undertake this experiment…as long as you are clear on one thing: These three steps (+ bonus steps) represent a tool for gauging the need for workplace visuality—and for quickly creating the first level of visual devices. They do not represent a methodology.

A methodology is a comprehensive process by which the employees are able to convert their department into a high-performing visual workplace—and, later, the entire company into a visually-capable enterprise, with all the powerful related business and cultural outcomes. Methodologies unfold over the long term. They take time, diligence, and a set of sturdy principles and practices—plus a strong, behind-the-scenes improvement infrastructure to ensure that the outcomes are sustainable. Methodology is how to implement transformations that last. And this week’s Pop Quiz can provide the motivation to begin! Let the workplace speak!