When you hear about rock musicians having a clause in their contract that they must have a bowl of M&Ms in their dressing room with all the brown M&Ms removed you could be excused for thinking: what will these crazy celebrities do next. Well it might just be those crazy celebrities are using visual management (granted I think there could be better methods [a bit more mistake proofing where the real problems would be manifest] but it is an interesting idea). Basically if they didn’t have the bowl of M&Ms, or if the brown M&Ms were not removed, they could distrust the thoroughness of the contractors. And they would check to see what other, actually important, contractual requirements were not followed.
Righting The Wrongs: Van Halen and M&Ms
The staff at venues in large cities were used to technically-complex shows like Van Halenâ€™s. The band played in venues like New Yorkâ€™s Madison Square Garden or Atlantaâ€™s The Omni without incident. But the band kept noticing errors (sometimes significant errors) in the stage setup in smaller cities. The band needed a way to know that their contract had been read fully. And this is where the â€œno brown M&Msâ€ came in. The band put a clause smack dab in the middle of the technical jargon of other riders: â€œArticle 126: There will be no brown M&Mâ€™s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensationâ€. That way, the band could simply enter the arena and look for a bowl of M&Ms in the backstage area. No brown M&Ms? Someone read the contract fully, so there were probably no major mistakes with the equipment. A bowl of M&Ms with the brown candies? No bowl of M&Ms at all? Stop everyone and check every single thing, because someone didnâ€™t bother to read the contract. Roth himself said:
â€œSo, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl . . . well, line-check the entire production. Guaranteed youâ€™re going to arrive at a technical error. They didnâ€™t read the contract. Guaranteed youâ€™d run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally, life-threatening.â€
Related: The Importance of Making Problems Visible – Visual Work Instructions – Good Process Improvement Practices – Great Visual Instruction Example