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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Visual Management

Visual management means to direct or administer using methods of instructions involving the sense of sight.  Consider the popular sport of baseball. Why do avid fans glance repeatedly 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!)
What is being measured? What does it mean to win? What do we need to do to win? Are we winning? Do we even have a chance? How many runs do we need?
The scoreboard also provides real-time information about other important game parameters:
What inning is it? What is the count? Was that a ball or a strike? How many outs? How many hits? How many errors?
The scoreboard generates and maintains interest. It provided unambiguous feedback about performance. It presents the same information to everyone, whether owner, manager, player, or spectator. Most importantly, it keeps us focused on the measures that are important and lets us know what must be done to win the game.
By analogy, true visual management shares real-time information about the status of a factory:
What are our goals? What are our key measures? How is the factory performing in relation to those goals? What is preventing us from reaching our goals? Most importantly, how does my individual effort contribute toward success.
Imagine a game - baseball, football , whatever - where no one knows the score. Scoring defines what it means to win. It tells players how the team is doing and how their individual efforts contribute to its success. It tells the team or individual what they need to do to win.
Visual management is the company-wide “nervous system” enabling all employees to understand how they affect the factory’s performance.
Using simple visual signals that provide an immediate understanding of a situation or condition will clearly define the normal or desired condition and expose the abnormal undesired condition.
Visual signals are efficient, self regulating, and worker managed.   They can be Signals, Floor markings, Codes, Supply Replenishment Cards, Supermarkets, Measurements, Performance Metrics, Color Coding, and/or Labels / Signs. 
You know you have been successful using visual signals when anyone can walk into a workplace and visually understand the current situation (self-explaining), understand the work process (self-ordering), know if you are ahead, behind, or on schedule (self-regulating), and see when there is an abnormality (self-improving). 
Here are some examples:

Remember to manage from the floor, not from your desk!  Keep it simple and keep it visual, and continuously improve!

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