My Take Tuesday – Visual Controls: The Decimal Speed Limit


I drove into a townhouse complex the other day and found a sign that said 9.5 miles per hour (mph) is the speed limit. My first thought was I am going to just go 10 mph. This triggered me to think about one of my favorite topics, visual controls. I consider a visual control anything you can see that is meant to inform, direct, and/or change you or your behavior. First thing I always do is ask what is the goal? In this case the goal is to have a safe neighborhood without having any incidents from vehicles. With the combination of speed bumps and a speed limit sign you have ways to slow down traffic.

Do the signs work? I ask 3 questions if visual controls are working:
1) Do you pay attention to the visual controls – YES I noticed the sign
2) Do the visual controls achieve the goal intended – YES I noticed the sign and made sure to slow my speed.
3) Will people notice the visual control after long term exposure – MAYBE I’ve been seeing odd speed limit signs since I’ve been driving and this one really caught my attention and may stay with me for a long time.

From the anecdotal sample size of one I would say the decimal speed limit sign is effective. How would you make a successful visual control where you work? Follow the three steps criteria from above, make it so easy a 3rd grader could understand what you are trying to communicate and experiment. I wrote a recent post about Occam’s Razor In Business Problem Solving where I talk about simple solutions are usually the best. I wrote a post Keep Iterating Or Go For The Big Fix? Which Way Works Better? where I talk about how crucial it is to experiment and change often to find what works best.