The Lean Office Blog

Visual Management – It’s All About the Benefits

Today’s post focuses on the benefits a team should expect to receive from implementing visual management. This is the fourth in a series of posts about visual management; check here for more posts on the topic. 

As we continue our discussion on Visual Management, it’s important to understand the “Why” before digging too much into the “How.” That way, when the going gets tough, we have a reason to follow through on the effort. Benefits can really be broken down into two areas:  the hard, measurable benefits, and the soft, cultural benefits. First, the measurable:

Measurable Benefits of Visual Management

“That which is measured improves. That which is measured and reported improves exponentially.”
– Karl Pearson

I would take this a step further, and add “when team members understand how their individual work impacts the process, real, sustainable improvement begins.” By linking together the work of individual team members with the team’s tactical targets, and aligning those with the company’s overall objectives, magic happens. We have personally witnessed countless examples of this principle play out within both manufacturing and office settings. There is something magical about displaying current vs. target condition in real-time. There are multiple reasons for this:lightbulb

  • Team members know what you care about most-you could have measured any metric, but you chose this one-it must be important!
  • You put it on the wall-this hits on a few items, namely personal and team pride in ownership, a natural desire to do better than yesterday, and “the company is no longer just paying lip service to this improvement thing.”
  • People like to win-at heart, even semi-engaged team members show up to work every day desiring to do a good job. Now, you’ve provided a means of measuring what a “good job” looks like
  • My work matters-as mentioned above, team members that are able to connect their individual decision-making and output to the overall team performance are dangerous, in a very good way

Implementing visual management as part of your Lean Management System can be difficult, but the measurable, tangible benefits of the effort are excellent. Continue reading below to discover some additional benefits on your team’s culture.

Cultural Benefits of Visual Management

In an age where data-driven reporting and results-oriented management strategies are becoming the expected norm, it can be easy to forget about the relational and cultural health of your organization. The purpose of visual management is a far cry from trying to marginalize individuals and promote bottom line metrics at all costs. In fact, visual management and the greater Lean ideology supporting it is based on a ‘deep respect for people’. Below are three of the impacts on your team culture you will observe from implementing visual management:

  • Unity

An unfortunate truth is that in many organizations, the relationship between manager and employee is one of constant tension, disagreement, and frustration. Over time, this starts to create a ‘managers vs. employees’ mindset where managers are after one thing and employees are after something totally different. If left unchecked, this mindset actually breeds all kinds of organizational waste. When leadership and team members are not aligned and are not excited about the same things, it creates disunity and an ineffective team.

Visual management actually provides a unique solution to this cultural problem by supplying a shared view, visible to everyone, that is objectively reporting in real-time how the team as a whole is doing. This ‘scoreboard’ is allowing the team to be privy to the same information at the same time, and make decisions in one accord. If properly designed, this type of visual management will start to point out problems in the process and not problems with people. When an entire team starts dancing to the same tune, and everyone can agree on what success looks like, you’ll find an amazing sense of unity comes over the team. I’ve seen this type of transformation first hand and can attest to the power of visual management being correctly applied.

  • Alignment of Visionarrows

On a similar note to the previous bullet, it is very common for members at different levels of an organization to have different goals for the company and the personal role they play. Many times the vision of upper management never even makes it to the ears of front line employees. We find ourselves playing a type of ‘telephone’ game where we expect vision and direction to be passed through a conversation the CEO had with the Director, and the Director had with the Manager, and the Manager had with the Supervisor, and the Supervisor had with the Employees. Somewhere along the way things are going to get lost and people are not going to be operating on a shared vision.

Visual management can serve as a type of information flow to be constantly communicating the vision, objectives, and priorities of leadership to everyone, regardless of role. If employees know that the metrics being displayed and driving their day to day work are coming directly from leadership, it will give them much more confidence that the work they are doing is valuable and important to their employer.

  • Engaged Workforce

As you start to recognize more unity and shared vision across your organization, you will see that employees at all levels are becoming more engaged with their work and feel empowered to identify and solve problems.

“Gallup research shows that keeping employees happy or satisfied is a worthy goal that can help build a more positive workplace. But simply measuring workers’ satisfaction or happiness levels is insufficient to create sustainable change, retain top performers, and improve the bottom line. Satisfied or happy employees are not necessarily engaged. And engaged employees are the ones who work hardest, stay longest, and perform best.

“If you’re engaged, you know what’s expected of you at work, you feel connected to people you work with, and you want to be there,” says Jim Harter, Ph.D., Gallup’s chief scientist of workplace management and wellbeing. “You feel a part of something significant, so you’re more likely to want to be part of a solution, to be part of a bigger tribe. All that has positive performance consequences for teams and organizations.”
-Gallup Business JournalMorale-Picture-smile-faces

In other words, employees who know what is expected of them become more engaged. When you start to feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself, it’s empowering, energizing, and you will desire to do your part and add value to the whole. Visual management can become a central tool in your tool belt for always letting employees know what is expected of them. As more and more of your workforce becomes engaged with their work, morale will skyrocket and the atmosphere will become attractive to everyone on the team.

There are clearly benefits for a team’s culture when visual management is applied correctly, and when you add those benefits to the significant improvement in the actual processes being measured, implementing visuals as part of your Lean Management System really does become a win-win. Check back next week to continue learning more about visual management!

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!

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