If I were to offer you a single piece of paper, how much would you be willing to pay me?  How about a single idea?  How about a single idea that would help you solve the most important problem that you faced yesterday, and that would spread like wildfire throughout your organization?  Now I think we might have a deal.

This is the simplicity of a one-point lesson (OPL).

OPL One Point Lesson

How to create an OPL:

The concept behind a one-point lesson is simplicity in itself:

  1. I will give you one side of one piece of paper to communicate your idea.
  2. Only 1 idea per one-point lesson (the title was kind of a give away).
  3. More pictures, more colors, less words.
  4. Better when written by people on the front-line; where the work is done!
  5. Timely – they should follow a recent failure or mistake that was made.
  6. SIMPLE!

The power of the OPL:

Of all the things I do in my role as an advisor to those people working in the maintenance and reliability field, the one-point lesson is that one thing that I continue to get the most positive feedback on.  I meet people years later and they tell me “That OPL idea has changed my life….keeping it simple and changing things one idea at a time is really the way to go!”

When to use the OPL:

One-point lessons can be used in a variety of ways to provide communication on simple ideas.  They can be used to:

  • Communicate immediately about recent injuries or safety incidents
  • Spread the word about recent equipment failures and their root causes
  • Clarify confusion about single procedural steps
  • Reinforce important operational methods
  • Facilitate continuous learning in a simple way

Think about that last bullet for a minute.  Imagine that you gather your team for 15 minutes every week; let’s say Wednesday morning at the beginning of your shift.   Assume that during this 15 minutes we talk about:

  1. Safety
  2. Our Current Performance against our most important metric
  3. A one-point lesson that is timely and current

Imagine that we do this for the next year.  Subtract holidays and vacations, and you will still have north of 40 touch points with your team.  How far will they grow in this year?  How much will they learn?  How long will it take till they no longer need you to facilitate this Wednesday get together, but rather are willing and able to do it all on their own?

This is how we drive a team to success;  one idea at a time.

Examples of an OPL:

 OPL Example 1:

This one-point lesson was made to explain the operation of a simple seal pot arrangement used to cool and flush a double mechanical seal arrangement.  It turns out that when we started to discuss the care of this critical equipment, almost no-one really understood how it worked (present company included).  With one piece of paper we changed all of that.

OPL One Point Lesson Learning Training Continuous Improvement


OPL Example 2:

Here is an associate prepared to work on the Clean in Place System (CIP) which contains caustic chemicals.  We could tell him to wear a poly suit, nitrile gloves, and neoprene shoe covers (to which he would likely reply “what is a poly suit”) or we could say look like this picture when you work on the CIP system.



The beauty of the one-point lesson is in its simplicity of delivery, and the ease with which you (or anyone for that matter) can create them.  To illustrate this point, here is a challenge to you.  Reach over to that printer and pull out a blank piece of paper.  In the next 5 minutes lets see you create a one-point lesson on some recent safety, equipment failure, or procedural issue that has bothered your organization in the last week.  Sketch a simple cartoon where the pictures would go – we can take pictures later.  Now clean this up and lets get it out to your people!

Post a reply to this blog and let us all know what the simple idea that you came up with looked like.

One Response to The Value of a Single Piece of Paper

  1. George Mahoney says:


    If we took anything from your Operator Care course, it was the one-point lesson.

    In my opinion, these simple visual indicators are changing the way we do business.

    In today’s world, fewer and fewer people are willing to read a manual or a workflow diagram.

    But show them a piece of paper with a picture on it, and you have a fighting chance to get better.

    Thank you so much for the help.

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