Visuals really help people understand the information. Everyone sees the same visual and it starts a good conversation allowing people to gain high agreement. The issue is all the visuals I listed are tools and as with any tool you need to understand when to use it.
To be effective with using visuals, you need to understand what information the group is trying to understand. What is the purpose of the visual? Who is the audience? What do they need to learn from it?
Most of the time the standard visuals will be perfect. You can use them and get everything you need. That is why those tools are well known, because they are used all the time and work. But sometimes, they won’t.
Don’t be afraid to make up a visual tool to present the right information in an easily digestible manner.
Here are a couple a colleague and I came up with for a recent event:
This one shows the % of time people spent doing different tasks throughout the day. It helped the group better understand who was doing what and for how long.
This one shows the frequency of tasks. Daily, Weekly or Monthly? What was the task done on? Who many times on that day?
In both cases, the different colored post-its represent different areas of the company doing the work.
As you can see, the standard visual tools would not have shown this information in a easy manner to understand. We designed this for the group and it worked very well.
We can’t always rely on the tools we have and know in our toolbox. Sometimes we have to think outside the toolbox. It is important to understand what your customer/group is trying to accomplish and design the visual accordingly. Don’t meet the needs of the tool. Meet your group’s needs.
If you are a regular reader of Beyond Lean, you may know that my wife has her own small business. It is just her and I. She runs the business 24/7 and I help where I can on nights and weekends.
Both of us have learned about a wide range of business aspects over the last couple of years from her small business. My wife has a background in marketing, but has learned a lot about IT and web design, materials, costing, production of a consistent product, using data to determine what the customers like and a lot more.
I have been working quite a bit with display booth setup and teardown (quick changeovers), preparing raw materials for usage and investment decisions.
When owning and running a small business a person can see everything from end-to-end. How a packaging decision can affect sales? How does shelf life of a product have an effect on the quality? How do certain ingredients react when mixing for production? Do they cause immediate quality issues? Do they cause quality issues over time?
In our experience, we have seen how lean thinking can be more natural for a small business. There is more of a concern about inventory and cash on hand, so there are many decisions that go into building to stock or building to order. Using visual management to make things easier to see when work needs to be done or not. I have some examples from my wife’s business that I will post at a later date as well as examples I have posted in the past.
I have learned numerous things from working with my wife in her small business that I carry on to my other job as lessons to apply.
Owning a small business is very hard work. You have to learn about things that don’t necessarily interest you, but if you want to be successful you have to get it done. In the end, it can be very rewarding and extremely educational.
I received this picture from a guy I worked with and coached for a couple of years. I am sharing this with his permission
(click on image to enlarge)
He and his wife would go to the store and if there was a sale, they would buy meat. They never knew what they had at home. When they got home from a recent trip they had bought meat they had plenty of…again. So my friend decided to get visual. He sorted out the meat that had gone bad and then created this visual board to better understand when he needed to buy a particular type of meat. He likes to barbeque so he keeps a variety of meat on hand.
The board is simple. Conveys one type of information. And anyone can understand it by looking at it.
What visual management have you used at home?
Last year, Beyond Lean hosted two lean series weeks. The week focused on a specific topic. Posts were from not only Joe and me but also guests. Giving the reader a different perspective on one topic for the week all in one place.
Please take the time to answer the poll letting us know what you would like to see as the next topic for the Lean Series week.
The first lean series was on standardized work.
- Standardized Work is Foundational to Continuous Improvement
- Standardized Work and Your Packaging Line
- What Standard Work Is
- Standardized Work Lessons Learned
The second series was on visual management.
- My Ode to Visual Management
- Managing Chemicals by Eye
- Saving time: How Visual Management Benefits Knowledge Work
- Visual Management is Critical to Lean
New followers of the blog can use this as an opportunity to read posts they might have not seen in the past. While, long time followers can use this as an opportunity to re-read some of the top viewed posts.
This post will count down the 10th thru 6th most viewed posts of 2012. Enjoy!
10. Guest Post: Selling Lean to People That Don’t Want It (July 2011) – This is a post from Joe Wilson before he became a full-time author at Beyond Lean. Joe talks about ways to sell lean to people who are not bought into the benefits of lean.
9. Making Leader Standard Work Visual (June 2011) – Previous Year Ranked #8 – An example of a visual board from a group I worked with. The board makes the tasks and if they were completed by the managers visual.
8. Dilbert Leading Transformation (July 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #10 – The Pointy-Haired Boss wants clear responsibilities and employee engagement.
7. True Mentoring (May 2012) – This is my take on true mentoring versus fake mentoring that goes on in business today.
6. Comparing Lean Principles to the 14 Toyota Principles (July 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #5 – The first part of a three part series where I compared the lean principles I learned from the Lean Learning Center to the Toyota Principles. This post covers the first five Toyota Principles.
My next post will count down the Top 5 viewed posts of 2012.
I was looking at the Top 10 posts for 2012 and noticed that only 2 posts from 2012 made the Top 10. Both posts were from earlier in the year. I finally realized that a post from about May on in the year has very little chance to overcome posts that have a 5 month or more head start on gaining views.
I decided to highlight 5 of the most popular posts written in 2012. Then in January I will post the Top 10 posts for the year.
Enjoy and have a Happy New Year!!!!
5. Misinterpretations of Lean vs. Six Sigma (April 2012) - How Six Sigma and Lean can be misrepresented in what their purpose is.
4. Strategy A3 Downloadable Template (April 2012) – This is the post about the new downloadable template to help with strategy discussions.
3. Visuals Used in the Office (October 2012) – A couple of visual management examples from the transactional workplace.
2. True Mentoring (May 2012) – This is my take on true mentoring versus fake mentoring that goes on in business today.
1. Need the Mental Toughness of a Navy SEAL (February 2012) – Inspiration of a Navy SEAL got me thinking about the mental toughness it takes to create change.
Have a Happy New Year!!!!
At the end of the year, John Hunter does a great job of facilitating an annual roundup of business and lean blogs at Curious Cat Management. The roundup is a review of blogs by other bloggers. This year I have the honor of participating in the Blog Carnival Annual Roundup.
A blog that I discovered this year was Lean Blitz written by Chad Walters. Chad is a student of the Toyota Principles and he does a great job of explaining each principle in a separate blog post. Each post has an example of the principle that can be seen in everyday life. If you are not familiar with the Toyota Principles I would suggest checking out Chad’s posts on the all 14 Toyota Principles.
Chad uses his business background to write about lean in business like the overproduction Domino’s Pizza has in their stores with all the pre-built pizza boxes. He also points out how Domino’s can use standardized work toe fold the boxes in the most efficient way like the worker in the TV advertisement.
Chad also shows how the Toyota Principles can help small businesses in a practical way.
A unique perspective that Chad brings is his experience in working with professional sports teams and organizations. He does a great job of relating the Toyota Principles to happenings in the sporting world. The Miami Marlins inability to think long-term in order to achieve their goals is a fantastic post about Toyota Principle #1.
Being a very large St. Louis Cardinals fan, I really enjoyed the post about the filth at Wrigley Field (home of the Chicago Cubs). Chad uses data sited from studies and then relates it to having a good 5S program in place and using visual management. The morale increases everyone is happier. Is this the reason the Cubs can’t win?
Chad talks about other lean concepts such as long lead times and how sporting organizations are losing revenue due to long lead times. Texas A&M got off to a great start in football this past season and their quarterback, Johnny Manziel played well enough to be in the discussion as a Heisman finalist as the best college football player. The university had long lead times on the jerseys for Manziel and ended up leaving a lot of cash on the table and fans unhappy when they couldn’t get one.
Chad has created a unique blog at Lean Blitz. It is a fun and different way to demonstrate lean principles in action in any environment.
There are examples of visual management everywhere. Walk into a store and the departments are labeled so you know where to go. Go to a Subway restaurant and the ingredients available to put on your sandwich are displayed right in front of you. Or look all around the U.S. road system. It is filled with visual cues and information.
This one is simple and can be handy.
Gatorade’s water bottle has a transparent stripe down the side that allows you to see how full the water bottle is. This conveys a single message (how much fluid is in the bottle?) simply. Sure you can pick it up and easily tell by the weight. What if you are an equipment manager for a sports team and you have 10 more of these to manage during a game. Instead of picking each bottle up several times to see if it is close to empty, a quick glance allows the equipment manager to know which ones to fill immediately.
It may seem like such a small improvement, but that is part of the essence of lean. Improving everyday. Saving even two seconds will amount to significant time as that process is repeated over and over again. This is something Paul Akers stresses at his company, FastCap.
What have you done to save 2 seconds?
A couple of weeks ago during the Lean Series week, a comment was made on one of the posts about showing more examples of visuals used in the office. That was a great question.
Below are some ways visual management has been used in the office area.
The column on the right shows the tasks that must be done each day by the managers. When the task is completed they put a check mark in the box. There are 4 managers in the area every day so there are 4 columns under each day. You can see that one manager is in a kaizen event all week so they put kaizen on the board to highlight the situation.
The above picture is a board displaying which employees are working on what work for that day. The manager updates the board every morning. The green square shows where that person will work that day. If an employee finishes their work they put a blue square showing they are available to help. If employee needs help, they can put a red square up. This has eliminated a lot of startup time in the morning when employees were trying to understand what work they were needed on that day.
This visual training matrix board supplements the visual scheduling board. This board shows who is fully trained in what skills. Green ‘X’ means they are fully trained. Purple ‘X’ means they are in the progress of being trained. Red ‘X’ means the employee is not trained to do that work. The manager uses this board to inform who they can have do what work for the day on the board above.
This is a typical way visual management can be used in the office. It shows the progress of work through stages of the work. Depending on the type of work, the stages work goes there can be labeled differently. For software development it could be Design, Develop, Test and Deploy.
I hope these examples spur thought on how you can use visual management in the office environment. If you have any examples you would like to share please feel free to send them to me so I can share them wit the readers.
Today’s guest post was written by David M. Kasprzak. David has worked with all levels of management in large commercial organizations and government agencies on budget development, project planning & performance measurement. Over the course of his career, he has realized that it is the qualitative elements of work that determine success or failure. Based on this realization, he began to explore the principles of Operational Excellence and Lean process improvement, and apply those concepts to other areas of both work and life. In 2010, David created the My Flexible Pencil blog to share his ideas on these topics.
Time, as we’re all well aware, is our most precious resource. When it is gone – it is gone for good. It doesn’t change form or turn into some other less complicated element – it is simply gone. When it is used well, we can say that our time was turned into some useful activity or tangible product. When it is wasted, the shame is greatest, since the time is gone for good and nothing of value was created to take its place. Yet, for some reason, wasting time seems to be, by-and-large, perfectly okay.
Think of this: What if you hired a group of people to plan, coordinate, and execute taking thousands of dollars from people. The group you hired became so adept at it that they were able to take that money from people who were so duped they gave it willingly. What’s more, those who took the money then lit it on fire.
Doing such a thing is, of course, both bizarre and criminal. However, when we set hapless managers into an organization where they have little ability or willingness to work on the business and not just work in the business, time is taken from people at every turn without so much as an afterthought. Boring, useless, meaningless drudgery that simply wastes time is so frequently the norm that it is not just tolerated, but expected.
How can this tremendous waste of time be prevented? Take a look at the typical office environment and you’ll see an immediate answer. Or, rather, you won’t see it – because you can’t see much of anything. Most of the workers and, therefore, the work are both hidden behind rows and rows of neutral-colored cubicles. While some of those workers are, indeed, wasting time by delving into any number of distractions while hunkered down in their fabric-covered boxes, this is not the norm in most places. The greater shame is that the way they are going about their genuine work is entirely out of the line-of-sight of anyone who is trying to see the work progress through the organizations.
While the completely open office environment isn’t the answer, either (it’s much too distracting and too noisy for people to concentrate), there is a need to invoke some visual controls in the office environment too. How is that new software development project progressing? Is there a clear, visual roadmap that lays out the steps the project must go through and status boards to communicate progress? How do you know who is working on what – and not just as a general assignment, but in terms of who is working on what for how long right now? How do you know when that person is stuck, waiting on some input? What’s the status of that input?
In most places the answer requires sending emails, calling meetings, or – heaven forbid – getting up and going over to talk to someone. All of which leads to information standing still or, at best, travelling much too slowly. If, however, more visual cues were invoked so that information was shared more openly, more quickly, and with greater appreciation of the need for immediate, intuitive understanding of how work is progressing (or not) – information would transfer faster. Instead, things are typically thrown into a powerpoint presentation that is shared in a meeting once a week – which is the equivalent of a factory floor batch-and-queue process that builds up a bunch of widgets only to release them to the cell once a week – whether the cell is ready for the batch or not.
Committing to visual controls information moves faster. The greater the velocity of information exchange, the greater the awareness of potential problems and ability to take action before those problems materialize. By adopting better visual controls, knowledge work environments can greatly increase both the amount and velocity of information moving through the organization. While this seems obvious, it is a bit daunting that the habits and practices that have been developed outside of the shop floor, such as hiding people and work behind tall cubicle walls, do more to hinder the flow of information than to facilitate it.