Red and Green are Sacred Colors for Operations

Red and Green are Sacred Colors for Operations

Operational excellence depends very heavily on a few fundamental principles. It depends on the use of the scientific method, a continuous commitment to Plan – Do – Check – Act, creating standards to identify waste and making visual the status of ahead or behind.

Companies who unlock their value using these principles understand that some long-established conventions help bring them to life. A3 thinking captured on a single sheet of paper helps to concisely follow the scientific method and painted lines on the production floor can make a 5S standards very visible. We would add to this list strict adherence to the colors RED and GREEN sends a message more powerful than Stop and Go.

Most cultures have adopted the mythical idea that red is bad and green is good. You have to stop for red and get to go for green. People who are angry become red in the face. The teacher highlights mistakes in red. If financials are bad, they’re in red. Even the bright red apple was used by the evil queen to put Cinderella to sleep.

Many organizations have taken this idea into their operation to send a quick message about the status of performance to goals.

It Works Best in Daily Management

One of the primary purposes of daily management is to make being ahead or behind visually obvious in our operation.  At the leadership level, this may be reflected in the status of a key performance indicator or resulting business metric. At the shop floor level, it may be reflected in the output of the last hour of production. In either case, it is a comparison to a target.

A very simple and effective visual for communicating ahead or behind – ahead is good behind is bad – is with the use of red and green. Whether it is a dry erase board or a spreadsheet projected on a big screen, the target should always be in black, allowing the result to quickly send the message of ahead or behind.  The result is displayed in green if it is ahead and red if it is behind.

This simple convention allows anyone to quickly see even from a distance if a measurement is ahead or behind.

What Makes the Colors Sacred

That visual element makes the colors important, but what makes them sacred is their ability to test your organization’s ability to follow a simple standard. Insisting targets are displayed in black, ahead of plan in green, and behind plan in red is a simple standard to establish and follow.

Help your organization make the status of performance quickly visual with red and green and make the colors sacred at your site to show your commitment to standards!

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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