Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Visual Management, A Status At A Glance

In the game of baseball why do fans repeatedly look at the scoreboard when the action is clearly on the field? The scoreboard answers important questions about the status of the game. It tells us how our team is doing in relation to the goal, to win the game! Visual management is the scoreboard for our business.

Visual management provides a clear and common understanding of goals and measures of the business. With this information employees are able to align their actions and decisions with the overall strategic direction of the company. It is also an open window to factory performance, and it provides the same unbiased information to everyone, whether owner, manager, operator, or visitor.

The goal in Visual management is to create a “status at a glance” in the workplace. This refers to an operating environment where anyone can enter the workplace and:

See the current situation (Self-explaining)
See the work process (Self-ordering)
See if you are ahead, behind or on schedule (Self-regulating) and
See when there is an abnormality (Self-improving)

Visual management is the language of the Lean production system. The Gemba is about observation and our observation is greatly enhanced by the ability to see the “status at a glance.” Without it we can’t see the wastes in our factory, which are the greatest source of potential improvements in customer service and business performance. Visuals ensure that what is supposed to happen happens on time, every time by everyone involved.

The key objectives of visual management are:

Give the status (Indicator Lights)
Direct and locate things (Road signs)
Indicate actions (Traffic Lights)
Show what is right or wrong (Lines in parking lots)

Although each tool has a different objective, the goal of all visual management tools is the same:  Status at a Glance.  For a leader, especially a leader in an organization that is on the pathway to a Lean transformation, visual management is one of the most fundamental and necessary elements to success. 

There is irrefutable evidence that a “shared vision” is critical to the success of today’s businesses. Visual management communicates the “shared vision” along with an understanding of how each individual should contribute toward that success. It’s a company-wide “nervous system” that allows all employees to understand how they affect the factory’s overall performance. 

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