Tag Archive | Visual management

Principles of visual management

Visual 1

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

Visual management sin titulo

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.

Pictures from:

OEE part 3: The model

Once we have seen a OEE introduction (link here) and the most frequent OEE calculations (link here), let’s review a model for OEE. The following graph shows:

  • the basic time blocks that impact OEE
  • typical problems that affect the time blocks
  • how to divide time to calculate typical OEE components

OEE ModelEach component helps flag certain problems:

  • A high “loading” component indicates low demand. The work center is idle most of the time. Unfortunately, there is not much to do from an engineering point of view to improve this number.
  • A high “planned downtime” component reveals:
    • the need of many scheduled corrective and preventive actions. This is a potential issue if problems are recurrent.
    • a high number of projects and updates. This is not necessarily a problem if projects are originated by new products or technologies.
  • A high “availability loss” component shows breakdowns, large adjustments, or lack of personnel, materials or systems when they are needed. The equipment definitely needs reliability improvement work, standardization and / or better scheduling to avoid starving the machines.
  • A high “performance loss” component proves low speed. Standardization and training are typical good next steps.
  • A high “quality loss” component obviously indicates that improvement must focus in getting first time quality, reducing scrap and reprocessing.

This analysis is the most important part of applying OEE to our processes. OEE is a means, not a goal. It must drive action and improve the effectiveness of our operations.

3 videos with all you want to know about daily meetings

Daily meetings are basic for Lean Management. Are they simple? Oh, yes! And this is probably why they are so powerful and so easy to misuse. These are some questions and answers about how to run daily meetings:

  • What can you use daily meetings for? Daily meetings may have many functions, but are typically used to review actions, projects and key performance metrics. This review is a means for a higher purpose: align your people, help your people understand your business, help your people improve the processes they work in, grow your people developing them as great problem solvers.
  • How do you review projects? There are many ways. A good starting point is to check project milestones (using a Green – Yellow – Red status panel) with the project team. Whenever the team finds a problem, understand the nature of the issue and agree an action to solve it (using an Actions Panel).
  • How do you review metrics? Find out your main KPIs (Key Process Indicators) and look for trends. Again, a status panel will work great (Green = trending in the right direction, Red = trending in the wrong direction, Yellow = no changes) and your main goal is still to understand problems and find solutions.
  • Hmm, are you serious about “daily”? Yes!
  • Really? Absolutely! Checking actions or metrics too late makes it almost impossible to understand the root cause of the problem. Therefore nobody can put a meaningful action in place.

Check out this video by The Gemba Academy for more details:

  • How can you run a daily meeting? A typical agenda is: a) review metrics; b) review actions/projects; c) everybody shares: “what I did yesterday”, “what I will do today”, “what’s in my way” (a.k.a. “what help I need to keep progressing)
  • Anything else to keep in mind? It is a good idea to standardize the way you use your boards. Keep the agenda and the meeting rules visible and make sure everybody understands and follows them. This will avoid many problems and it makes possible to have a different leader everyday, which is also a good thing to consider.

More information in this video by Rocket Matter:

  • Any advice on the rules to follow? Of course, these are generally good ideas:
    • Daily meetings are standing meetings: They will go faster and more to the point.
    • Have a clear agenda agreed with the team members.
    • Everybody is invited to talk.
    • Keep an appropriate level of detail.
    • Avoid side conversations. Avoid mobiles and computers.
    • Start on time, finish on time.
    • Be visual (panels, sticky notes and magnets are better than computers)
    • Keep it short (15 minutes should be ok)

More information in this video by Agile Videos:

Up and down


This is the cathedral of Salamanca, Spain. It’s old and beautiful so it’s always full of visitors trying to get access to it, especially the gothic towers. The stairs that go up are narrow and long (it takes approx. 2 minutes to go to the top) and there is little room to move. In the past people tried to go up to the tower when other people were going down from the tower, so problems were frequent: people getting stuck and nervous, some panic attacks, long queues. The result: unhappy visitors.

Today there is a visual system that controls the flow of people. Surprisingly, this simple screen has made a big difference. Well, maybe it’s not such a big surprise: it is visually easy to understand, it combines color, graphs and text, and tells everybody in a very effective way if they are allowed to go or if they have to wait (and how long). Now the visitors know what to expect, no more hurries, no more frustration. Instead, there is a very good flow of people going up and down quietly and enjoying the visit. And best of all, people can organize themselves without any external help. Self management in place!

These are the wonderful views over the city from the top of the tower. It’s worth the wait!

IMG_3743 IMG_3762

Don’t live in a museum!


Visual management is a complex concept that is often misused. Its main problem is that it looks easy to do, but it is not. This sounds obvious, but there it goes anyway: “visual management” must be visual and must help manage a process (value stream). Easy, right? Not really.

  • “Visual” means that its main purpose is to make problems visible. Of course some visual boards have other extra uses, like showing the flow of the product or service, aligning your team, sharing metrics…. but if it does not show clearly if you are in trouble or not, you’ve missed the point.
  • “Management” means it must generate action. Problems are shown to know where the product is not flowing, find out why and put in place actions that correct the problem and hopefully eliminate it forever.

Visual controls can’t work alone. A board with nice colors won’t help you much without “Standard accountability processes” and “Leader standard work”. A great resource to learn more about this topic is “Creating a lean culture” by David Mann.

If your boards and panels don’t show problems or drive actions, you don’t have visual management, you have a museum.

How to mislead everybody



Visuals are great tools to reduce errors and increase speed. However they must be designed with care, because wrong visuals are worse than no visuals at all.

The picture above shows a signal in LA airport indicating the direction to the boarding gates. Apparently going either to the left or to the right is ok for anybody, but passengers soon find out that gates to the left are for business class and gates to the right for economy class. The signal is not strictly wrong but is definitely confusing. As a result, crowds of people were wandering around trying to find out were the boarding gates were, which produces waste in the “boarding process”: defects (wrong gate), waiting (queueing twice), transport (suitcases moving more than needed), motion (people moving more than needed),…

This is another example from Chicago airport:


This gate monitor showed for more than 2 hours a flight to LA, but the plane really flew to Las Vegas (as the rest of the monitors in the airport correctly indicated) . I counted more than 50 people who asked if Las Vegas was really the destination when they got to the gate. The gate crew called the maintenance department at least 2 times to repair the monitor (no success). When we were boarding, some passengers were still a bit worried about being on the wrong plane.

When designing visuals, don’t let them be misleading. A visual is a very simple and effective way of helping people. Make sure they really help.