This story is about the importance of Effective Instructions

Having effective instructions is always important, but when you are in another country, it becomes crucial. The pictures below were taken in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where my family and I live. Every Thursday night there is a market along the marina. It an amazing sight where delicious food and colorful clothes, art and souvenirs are sold.

Apple Pay
Apple Pay

I  was walking through the market one day when I discovered fresh homemade apple pies for sale. The sign said “Pay De Manzana” which in Spanish means apple pie. Below “Pay De Manzana” were the words “Apple Pay”. I thought to myself “awesome, I can pay with Apple Pay.

I picked out a few apple pies. I pulled out my cell phone and said I will pay for these with Apple Pay. The young lady looked very confused. After a couple of seconds of confusion between the vendor and myself, my wife leaned over and said: that’s not Apple Pay, they tried to write “Apple Pie” in English.

So, the young Mexican lady had tried to translate “Pay De Manzana” to English for the many English-speaking tourists that frequented the market. Unfortunately, she didn’t translate “Pay” (which is Spanish for pie) correctly. Thus my confusion!

Example of non Effective Instructions

How does this example relate to Lean and Six Sigma?

We write work instructions for our employees to follow. Often, we identify objects or processes with pictures in those work instructions. Yet operators still make mistakes sometimes. Why is this? … Because WE (the leaders) write the instructions without the help of the operators or the customers. Yet, we expect our operators or customers to understand the instructions exactly as we know them. 

Could this scenario be avoided?

If the young lady had access to an English speaking friend, or Google Translate, then yes! All that needed to be done was verify that the sign (or instructions) translated well to customers, making it clear what she was trying to communicate. It all ended well as my wife, who speaks Spanish well, informed the lady of my mistake. The young lady and I laughed and I walked away with some delicious apple pies after I paid with cash, not Apple Pay.

Have you ever been in a similar situation where the instructions were not effective? If so, let us know in the comments below.