What is Visual Management?
Visual management is one of the Lean techniques designed so that anyone entering a work place, even those who are unfamiliar with the detail of the processes, can very rapidly see what is going on, understand it and see what is or is not under control. Essentially, the current status of the work can be assessed, at a glance.
Which of these is easiest to understand?
APAGOREUETAI TO KAPNISMA
They all mean the same thing, but unless you speak Greek or Italian, the first two instructions may not have been clear. Pictures, diagrams and visual representations of processes are the easiest way of getting messages across. If we want someone to understand how files should be organised on shelves, the easiest way is to take a photo of the right way with a big tick symbol, and a photo of the wrong way with a big cross symbol.
Visual management evolved in factories, but its principles apply equally in any setting, from offices to call centres to care delivery settings. Ask yourself this, with a basic idea of what your organisation does, could someone walk into your building/office and understand what processes are in place? Would they be able to see how people pass through the service or work passes through the process? Do we make it easier for staff to perform by creating a visual workplace? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, read on…
What does visual Management help you do?
Visual management helps you:
- Understand and indicate priorities
- See whether performance (usually daily) has been met
- Identify the flow of work and what is being done
- Identify when something is going wrong or not happening
- Show expected standards of work
- Communicate to everyone what performance measures are in place
- Demonstrate all the elements required for safe and effective work
- Provide real time feedback to everyone involved in the whole process
- Cut down on meetings to discuss work issues.
How to develop a visually managed workplace
Most of us have some visual clues in our workplaces. They may include notices with instructions, signs pointing to other places, or pictures of products or services. They sometimes help, but often notices literally become part of the wallpaper, lack relevance, and are soon ignored. How do we ensure then, that we have a relevant and effective approach to visual management?
There are numerous techniques involved in visual management and we describe these below. It is important though that when establishing a visually managed workplace, that we sequentially work through a simple process, rather than merely throwing in a few tools.
Techniques used in visual management
The techniques used to create a visually-managed workplace fall into a number of categories:
The workplace itself:
- Marked floor areas
- Direction of process flow shown
- Shadow boards to visibly store physical items if used
- Identified equipment & locations – including files, processing status, etc.
- Process documentation
- Procedures – can be in the form of a one-point-lesson (all you need to know on one page) or exemplars e.g. a form filled in showing the likely problem areas
- Skill & training boards to indicate competence development needs across the team
Visual production control
- Visual process indicators (work in progress, productivity, output, lead time, etc.)
- Maximum work-in-progress levels show to prevent over-production
- Status boards
- Kanban visual signals
Visual performance measurement
- Quality charts
- Performance charts (dashboard metrics based on KPI’s)
- Status of the organisation
Visual safety management
- Safety warnings
- Precaution information.
Visual management in service settings
In service settings, visual management can seem much more challenging since tools such as autonomation don’t really apply. However, all aspects of visual management are relevant, so long as we can persuade people to follow the processes necessary to make them work.
Automation can be redefined as ‘no error forward’. E.g. we stop work when we find an error and stop any more errors going forwards to the next stage. The question is then how to make this stoppage evident and how to get support to the person with the problem as soon as possible. We may not appreciate a klaxon or a flashing light in our office, but a red flag or sending an alert email to a central address is an equivalent. The key question is, ‘do we carry on making mistakes until we find a way to prevent them, or do we stop making them until we find a way to prevent them?’ Service and public sector processes are much more likely to continue working, even it is known that there are problems with the process output. A visual ‘no errors forward’ system makes this much less likely.
The benefits of visual management
Apart from the overall outcomes of improving customer satisfaction, the introduction of visual management tends to have a number of benefits, which include greater employee involvement and motivation, as they feel more in control of what they are doing; better communication; raised quality and productivity of work; faster decision making processes; and less waste in processes.
How Ad Esse can help you
We have worked in many different environments where we have helped managers and teams get to grips with creating a better visual workplace. We start with a very brief diagnosis to help you understand the scope of opportunities available to you and the benefits this will deliver. We also incorporate a visual management element in all of our projects with clients. If you would like to know more about this, please call, Ad Esse on 0116 478 8258.