I am a strong believer that Visual Management enables efficient and effective management and is one of the foundations that should be deployed at the beginning of any lean improvement journey. If done well it can save a manager a lot of time, and ensure that the outputs are exactly as the business demands. It also enables any potential risks to be identified very early, typically in real time, therefore appropriate mitigation can be implemented.
But I have not always thought this way, so maybe my story will help you to convince people in your team what visual management is and more importantly ‘why’ we need it.
As a graduate engineer working at Toyota, I initially resisted Visual Management and really struggled to understand why I needed to do it. I was responsible for Press panel quality for the all new Corolla vehicle introduction in the early 2000's, I had been to Japan for the vehicle trials and I knew every single defect on every panel. As we approached the model launch, with approximately 3 months to go, there were 33 defects still on the panels of varying severity (nothing abnormal in that) and I knew exactly which ones we needed to clear and in which order (or at least I thought I did).
“Why do I need to waste time and paper doing this?” was my question weekly. No doubt when I look back, this would be extremely irritating for him.
I may have known all the defects and had the severity correct (which in fact I had), however as a very confident 20 something year old I had no idea of the effect and potential cost implications should I have not had the right approach. It was my first major model launch, so from a business sense I was probably fairly high risk.
All my manager wanted, was to browse the wall in his own time (and sometimes with his colleagues from other departments and also his bosses) to ensure that my working logic was correct and that I had got the right priority of defect improvement. He needed to see the information so that he could ensure that I did not fail. Imagine the effect if a major modification went wrong a few days before the launch of a new vehicle. At that time the factory was making more than one car per minute.
For him, using visual management to present the defects enabled him to assess the current situation very quickly. Without the need for a long sit down meeting where I would need to explain every defect in detail. Who wants long sit down meetings anyway!
Now, nearly 15 years on, I look back and smile when I remember what a pain I must have been to my manager, ironically now he is my business partner!
Since leaving Toyota, Kevin has worked for various companies on continuous improvement, Lean and quality improvement projects. Kevin was struggling to obtain the products he wanted to introduce into certain processes, so with his boss at the time and the consultant he was working with, they decided to make the products themselves. That was in 2008, and subsequently became Visual Management Technology Ltd.