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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Visual Management Boards: Manual vs Digital

When it comes to visual boards in the workplace the most common line of questioning is related to manual visuals versus computerized/digital visuals.  Many people prefer the look of a more sophisticated information technology solution over a simple hand written solution.  There are several things to consider when deciding which visual method to use.

Manual Visual
Digital Visual
Manual visuals are current as of the last recording and reviewed by frequency of the pitch.
Computerized visuals are current as of the last data entry and last time the report was run.
Hand written visuals are usually close to the process whose performance they reflect.  This also makes it difficult to disperse the information to other locations.
Computerized systems encourage managing the production process from a computer screen in an office somewhere removed from the actual production area.  A computer aided solution is definitely advantageous for computational accuracy as well as ease of distributing information.
Manual visuals are usually near or at the Gemba and can be physically verified but humans do make mistakes.

Digital visuals are usually a long way from the source, often require judgment and execution of data, which can make accuracy difficult to assess.
Manual methods are not always precise, notes sometimes vague, and reporting periods can occasionally be missed.
Digital visuals are highly precise regardless of accuracy.

Questions prompted by manual visuals can be addressed at least initially where it is posted and can be easily modified or new visuals created.
Computerized solutions are powerful analytical tools, but usually only designed to address the questions programmed and not easily changed or customized.
Manual visuals require little to no expense to implement and maintain.
Computers and network equipment are expensive to purchase, require continuing maintenance costs, and technical expertise.
Manual visuals are easy to use, owned by production floor, and draws people to the information whom helped create it.
Computers can be intimidating; the data is removed from shop floor to be transformed into impersonal computer-generated report.

Manual boards work best for local teams and smaller teams, for whom the manual updates won’t waste time or cause communication breakdowns. You have to make sure that you have firm communication strategies in place so that no task gets overlooked, and that task status is always up to date. Manual boards tend to promote face-to-face conversation. Manual boards are often more intuitive than digital boards for new employees, because a physical, hand-written board can be easier to visualize and understand. Ultimately, manual boards engrain task status and other project information by forcing team members to make manual updates.

You can also create a digital board to manage your business. The benefits of a digital board include live updates, customization, and more flexibility (this is helpful in the event of changing deliverables or deadlines). Additionally, many online tools make it easy to aggregate information by letting you attach documentation directly to the board. Digital boards tend to work well for software/technology teams, fast-paced teams, teams with remote workers, or instances where external stakeholders (management, clients) need insight into progress. Although digital boards can ease some of the hurdles felt by physical board users, a digital board will not automatically solve all your team’s communication problems. Rather, maintaining the daily management and prioritizing communication among workers is the best way to ensure that everything gets completed.

Visual boards are a means connect people to their processes.  They also reflect the adherence to the process and are the basis for comparing actual versus expected performance. Visual controls help transform the abstract concept of discipline in lean management into directly observable, concrete practices.  It is important to choose the right visual format for each process. 

Neither option is objectively better suited to Lean methodology. Instead, your board will be most effective if you choose the version that best fits the needs of your team. For instance, if your team is new to Lean and is all in one location, a physical board might be best to help ease into the workflow and promote conversation among workers. On the other hand, if you’re working with a large, remote team, an online tool will work better. Therefore, the first step in implementing visual management is isolating the unique needs, strengths, and weaknesses of your team before selecting how you will organize and track the work being done.

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