This week I’ve heard a person describing visual management like “putting our Excel spreadsheet on the wall”. Sadly visual management tools are many times just an illusion and consist in a simple copy of previous management systems (spreadsheets, agendas, calendars…) made with paper or magnets hanging somewhere.
Yes, visual management must be “visual” (in graphic form) and “public” (everyone can see it) but that’s not really the point of it. Visual management must follow these principles to have the right to use that name:
- Defines the standard condition
- Highlights problems
- Creates alignment
- Drives action & learning
Defining the standard condition means that visual management is a prediction of how things will go on. We base the prediction on our standards. Visual management helps everybody understand what is expected to happen. Then we check how things go and a) celebrate that our prediction was right or b) discover that our prediction was wrong. In the second case, we have found a problem (assuming that our standards are correct. If they are not, the problem is that our standards are inaccurate). Visual tools make sure that information is shared and aligns team members. Then the team decides what to do to understand the problem and learn, find out the root cause of the problem and put solutions in place.
Visual management can be summarized as: “We see together, we know together, we act together” (see Al Norval’s post at Lean Pathways blog: link )
Don’t forget that Visual Management can’t work alone. It needs Leader Standard Work and Standard Accountability Processes to run properly.