Every stapler in our office is black and metallic silver. Or grey.

Except for two red staplers.

This red stapler better be at the copier – Or Else!!!

While visual management is generally thought of as a way to error proof manufacturing processes, the use of visual management techniques can be applied in the office as well.

The red staplers are deployed at our copier and fax machine- our office ‘commons.’

You might think that they are red so that they will be easily spotted.

While that would be true, that is not why they are so colored.

The  real reason for the red color  is to provide a clear visual signal that they were out of place if someone walked off with them, since all other staplers in our office are shades of metallic and black.

So a missing ‘commons stapler’ would have someone “Seeing Red!”

But they are never missing, the visual difference alone seems to be self enforcing.

The case of missing shared tools or supplies is called the tragedy of the commons, and it is one of the more interesting  concepts from my college career.

Although my Malthusian Eco-Freako Professors would be aghast to find out it applies to the mundane  utensils of everyday office work.

If you have a problem with shared resources or “commons issues”-  understanding the “tragedy of the commons’ concept and that visual lean techniques can help to protect the ‘commons’ is an idea worth pursuing.

What kind of visual lean techniques have you deployed in your office or shop that have made a difference in resource availability?