Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Four Levels of Visual Management

By Pascal Dennis

Lean is about making problems visible, and visual management is a core methodology.

You can’t fix what you can’t see!

There are four levels. Here they are in order of increasing power:

Level 1 – Tells only

STOP signs are a good example. In our neighbourhood, people blow by them all the time.

(We call them ‘Hollywood stops’ – the driver slows by 5 miles per hour, takes a perfunctory look around & drives on through. Not exactly, Safety First!)

Level 2 – Something changes, which gets your attention

Traffic lights are a good example. “Hey, the light’s changed to Green. We can drive on.”

Level 2 has more power because, done well, it wakes people up.

Our regular readers may recall that Lean is about wakefulness…. ``Hey, we have a problem here. We should do something!

Sadly, visual management in many organizations gets stuck at Level 1.

In many Health Care organizations, for example, visual management amounts to signage telling people to do, or not do something.

This amounts to blaming the work, as W. Edward Deming observed a generation ago

Doing so, subtly shifts responsibility from senior management to front line workers. “Hey, I told them not to do it…”

A nice trick – “I’ll take the power, privilege and perks of power – but not the responsibility!”

This amounts to a 21st century variation on “Let them eat cake.”

Most of the time, the root cause is in the system - which senior leaders own.

Next time, Level 3 and 4 visual management.



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