Creating a Visual Management Board

What is a Visual Management Board?

Visual management boards provide your team with a means to display and easily communicate the status of key production metrics. The aim is to have a visual display that is well thought out, relevant and simple for your team to use. These visual displays are often whiteboards, with metrics updated by hand and the use of colour coding, such as a “traffic light” system to enable your team to tell at a glance how things are going, as well as what is being done when thing’s aren’t going well. The type of production metrics can vary, depending on the type of team and industry you are in. Team boards follow the philosophy that what gets managed gets the attention, so key metrics that cover Moral, Safety, Quality, Delivery and Cost must be included. These can be modified to suit each team and support where they are along their lean journey.

What Problem are we Trying to Solve with your Board?

Before jumping head long into ordering white boards (which can be very expensive) and cutting up magnets, we urge you to pause and consider the problem you are trying to solve with your team when implementing a visual management board. It’s very easy to attend a best practice visit and get enthusiastic about the wonderful board you have seen, then try to force those board to fit your team, industry and work culture. Creating a SIMPLE board is not easy; at TXM we often see boards that are too complex and take up too much time to gather the data and update. This can easily outweigh the benefits of a visual management system when not properly thought through and implemented.

What is the Board for?

For a board at shop floor level, we would like you to consider three elements:

1. Are we having a good day? Think about what a “good day” means to your team – how do we define that in terms of goals? How do we set and measure these targets?

Then discuss how we can show if we have met these targets

2. What do we need to do next to reach today’s goals?

Developing a team as we implement a lean excellence system involves sharing the decision making that involves the team, and being able to have some control and visiblity about their work load and mix is a great step in that direction.

3. What problems are we trying to solve?

As you considered the problems you are trying, you may consider using Concern Strips or A3 plans

How do we Measure Status or Progress?

If your process has a long cycle time with many complex steps, then visually displaying the progress can be useful as a summary of what is going on across a large area, where it is hard to determine if we are having a good day through direct observation.

You need to consider your own needs when it comes to flexibility versus simplicity. For example, having printed magnets is a great way to simplify updating a visual management board. However, if your product mix is very large, or is always changing, having pre-made magnets doesn’t justify the time to make the magnets, the costs or your efforts.

Then if there is a problem, how do we use the board to highlight it? How we update and review the boards are also elements to consider during the design phase. We must consider how we plan to meet around the visual management board and highlight the importance of information by taking an interest, as part of the management team.

This  leads into how to roll up information between areas, if that is needed for your company. Visual management boards are great for communicating with the teams  that can see them. They are less convenient for creating reports and presenting information to the board (as a side note, having the management team walk the floor and seeing the boards is always an option!)

What a Visual Management Board is NOT

A quick word on what a visual management board is NOT, as you step through the design phase. These boards are hard to use to collecting times. They are not just another management reporting tool that adds burden to the supervisors. And they are not meant to be used to have  teams competing in a way that doesn’t reflect your company culture.

Implementing your Visual Management Board

Now that you have begun to think about the elements of a visual management board, there are the four key steps to follow:

1. PLAN –  You must include your team that will be using them. This helps with engagement and develops an understanding about he important factors of running a visual management board on a daily basis

2. DO – Start by testing a  simple version and modify on weekly basis. This lets you learn by doing. Establishing a visual manage board is not about creating brownie points for a junior engineer; it must support the production team. Don’t make an expensive board and them try to make it work (we promise, it will create more heartache in the long run!)

3. CHECK – When the board is starting to take on its final shape (for now!), make sure you document and support. Even the best systems need review and updating, especially with major changes of production schedule or product mix. Include who is to update which sections, where the information is coming from and how to escalate a problem. Include when and how you will check the visual management board is still working for your team

4. ADJUST – Don’t be afraid to adjust elements of the board as your team matures and your processes or product mix changes.

Visual Management Board Examples

There are many different formats a visual management board can take. Here is one example, where we can see four key metrics and an area for Concern Strips.

 In Conclusion

As you head off to implement a visual management board with your team, talking with your team about what you are going to achieve with this new board will help to make your efforts a success. Start simply and build a routine around updating and reviewing the visual metrics displayed on the board. Then use this success to help your team meet it’s goals.

Learn How to Build Visual Management Boards in to a Lean Daily Leadership Process for Front Line Leaders.

Read More about Visual Management Boards from our Blog.