The Lean Office Blog

Visual Management – Making Problems Visible

A wise man once told me, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Regardless of circumstances, his experience taught him that shining light on problems, or making them visible, was the best way to begin the problem solving process. For organizations working to create a Lean Management System, seeing problems is a crucial step, and Visual Management allows you to do just that. So how exactly do you go about making problems visible? First, a definition:

Visual Management – The placement in plain view of all tools, parts, production activities, and indicators of production system performance, so the status of the system can be understood at a glance by everyone involved.  -Lean Lexicon

The key phrase here is “so the status of the system can be understood at a glance by everyone involved.” This is a great purpose statement for us to use going forward. Based on this purpose, there are a few key components needed:stoplight_visual_management

  • Status – this is often overlooked, but is really critical to success-it’s great to know a piece of data, but it must be measured against something (plan vs actual, goal/target condition, etc.). For example, if a fast food restaurant has served 15 people in the last 30 minutes, is that good or bad?
  • System – something with defined inputs and outputs, preferably
    some standard processes as well. In my experience, the more complex the system, the better the results you’ll see from adding visual management to truly “see” what’s going on. Complexity is really great at casting shadows over the truth of current-state.
  • Involved People – if there aren’t people involved in the process, who would see it and react? At the same time, the information needs to be relevant and useful enough that people will actually use it. It’s also crucial that the people involved in the process understand why the visual exists, and what exactly the visual is telling them.

In future posts we’ll discuss the important role Visual Management plays in a Lean Management System, the benefits of Visual Management for your company, and also provide helpful tips for implementing in your own work space.

The Lean Office is a software tool designed to help Lean organizations  who have moved beyond tools and events, and are implementing their own Lean Management System. Click here to find out more!

1 Comment

  1. Ken

    I like what is said about involving the people. Without the buy-in of the people, visual management becomes just another failed project

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