Visual management boards can be too much! If you walk through a Lean manufacturing organization, you can tell immediately whether or not their visual management system is working or not. The walls have been plastered with charts and graphs, which sometimes tend to resemble a wallpaper convention. First, you will spend an excessive amount of time trying to understand what visual management boards apply to what part of the operation. Once you have figured out what boards apply to what, then you begin to examine the data outlined. Things then begin to become mind-numbing. Charts and graphs that line the walls contain confusing, disorganized and outdated information that truly has no relevance and doesn’t contribute to the effectiveness of visual management boards.
In most companies, there is a culture of hiding embarrassing data. The organization culture is all about hiding the dirty laundry. No one really wants to expose their weaknesses. This in itself is a major issue and a truly defeats the purpose of visual management. Leaders must instill a culture of loving their problems. Identifying problematic data is a way to quickly identify issues and work to get them resolved.
The next issue is the standards of work. This is a fairly obvious requirement for most manufacturing operations. It is crucial to understand what is the standard of work for each position. Without this being established, the visual management system is rather useless. The number of widgets John should make every hour or the number of boxes Jane packs per hour are at the heart of understanding your operation. Clarity is established when the boards reflect accurate production data. Both leaders and workers know instantly where they stand and if there is an issue that needs to be addressed.
Effective visual management boards should allow anyone to know in real time exactly how the process is performing and where the issues are. To get there, organizations must clearly define what processes and improvements they want to measure. The key questions then become what exactly do you want to know about a process, then what are the critical metrics.
Visual Management Boards Create Clarity
Organizations who fail with visual management boards fail to start simple and keep it that way! Everyone needs to get used to simple boards that reflect simple data. It may not at first produce significant operational results — you will get the organization used to the boards and respond to the information they are receiving. It will also create a habit of keeping the boards updated regularly with current, accurate data. Once they are comfortable with the boards, establish the standards for each job or process. Now the expectation is set and the real meaning of the boards will become clear to anyone in the operation. With all the processes within an operation, it then becomes essential to identify the essential measurements that will ensure the organization meets or exceeds annual goals.