Three Reasons Why Visual Management Boards Fail

Organizations pursuing lean often rush to deploy visual management boards. They fill the walls with metrics and charts, performance data and improvement project plans.

Sadly, as often as not, these visual boards turn into unattractive wallpaper, unused, unloved, and out of date. The reason that they fail to fulfill expectations is that the necessary groundwork hasn’t yet been laid.

1. They haven’t established the right mindset/culture to support the boards.

In most companies, problems are a cause for embarrassment, and often something to be hidden. But that’s the wrong attitude — companies serious about improvement must love their problems. They must view a problem not as someone’s fault, but rather as an opportunity to fix the system. Until that mindset is established and widespread, people will be anxious and afraid to have publicly visual indicators of their performance. At best, they’ll feel that they’re being micromanaged. At worst, they’ll be afraid that they’re under constant suspicion. They won’t see a visual board for what it is: an easy way to indicate that they need help.

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2. They don’t have standards for people’s work.

It’s pointless to post visual indicators of performance until you know what the standard for the job is in relation to customer needs and organizational goals. For example, what’s the correct number of widgets Sara should make per shift? What’s the target number of boxes that Roger should be packing per hour? How many sales calls per day should Tom be making? Once you establish standards, you can make the visual controls that the workers—and managers—can use to spot problems. 

3. They haven’t yet decided what processes and improvements they want to measure.

Visual controls enable you to see — in real time — how a process is performing, and if necessary, to solve problems as they occur.;

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