There’s a reason why Kindergarten and preschool classes work – everything is visible. As that famous book said about kindergarten, adults can learn much about how the classroom operates for children.
Visual Management is a key practice in Lean Thinking. It is simple, but has several principles that I’d like to discuss in this series of posts. Today’s post is one principle I’d like to highlight: Visual Management Makes Problems Visible (use visual management to expose problems).
Make Problems Visible
At the heart of Lean is learning to see what is “normal” versus “abnormal” conditions. Once we have established standard work, then we can claim what “normal” conditions are. And, when we do, we can better expose what “abnormal” conditions look like, feel like, and what those results are.
Take this example from IKEA – this is an IKEA furniture instruction booklet that is 1 page long:
In one glance, I know what normal conditions are and what abnormal conditions are. How? Abnormal Conditions have an “X” across the image. The important phrases here are: “in one glance” and “normal conditions” – that’s the power of visual management.
The example above is just an example manifest as work instruction. But, Visual Management within a process should also expose when a process or machine is not performing “normally”. In that situation, within a glance, outsiders should know immediately how a process or machine is performing.