The Lean Office Blog

The Five Stages of Visual Management

Today’s post focuses on a team’s typical response to implementing visual management. This is the third in a series of posts about visual management; check here for more posts on the topic. 

When getting started with your visual management efforts (or any Lean initiative, for that matter), roadblocks often appear.  The good news is, these roadblocks often follow a similar pattern, and knowing the pattern can help you understand which stage your team is in currently, how best to handle the team’s response, and also what to expect next. Below is a common pattern we’ve witnessed as companies begin the journey to a more visual workplace:

  1. Denial (that this will be sustained) – depending on your company’s culture, this stage could pass briefly, or last several days in the hardest cases. This is the equivalent of team members saying “oh great, another attempt at displaying key performance indicators. . .I’ll just wait this out.” The only solution is pressing onward with purposeup_arrow
  2. Anger (that the metrics are making them look bad) – this occurs for a few reasons-either team members fear that the company views them as the root cause of bad metrics (please address this immediately by explaining the concept of “people vs process!“), or they know that the inputs to the metrics weren’t being taken seriously prior to the implementation. This stage is marked by a very quick up-tick in performance, and renewed discussions around why the work matters
  3. Bargaining (by making excuses, trying to change target condition, or gaming the system) – once the initial bump of improvement is over, the real work begins. Often, team members will try to make the metrics look better than they are, or simply try harder (not sustainable) to improve the metric. One by one, people realize they can’t just try harder-processes and systems actually have to change. This realization has the potential to send even the most willing team members back to the denial stage. Marked by a leveling off of metric improvement, the only solution is training and empowering your team members to improve the way work is done
  4. Depression (that things aren’t improving at the desired rate) – The most dangerous stage of all. You’ve convinced your team members to do the hard work of improving the process, but the results simply aren’t there. There are many reasons for this, none of which your team wants to hear. This is the most critical time for Lean managers to demonstrate (or learn!) coaching and encouragement skills to team members ready to throw in the towel. This stage is marked by level (or even slightly) declining performance, but will end soon, leading to. . .buttercup
  5. Acceptance (that this improvement stuff is going to continue, and we might as well get used to it) – you know when you’ve entered the promised land when your most hardened team members actually get excited about improvement in key metrics. Pat your team on the back, pick a new metric to attack, and get ready to re-enter stage 1. Oh, and don’t forget about the metric you just improved-things tend to break down over time, so check in on it at regular intervals

While your team may travel this same path many times with new metrics, being aware of the stages and gaining experience in successful implementations can radically change your team’s culture, leading to genuine excitement when new metrics and goals are created.

Have anything to add to the discussion? Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section below!

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