Visual Management For The Rail Industry
VMT’s Guide to Visual Management Board Design
At VMT, we have successfully been working with and for our clients to design Lean Visual Management boards that have a positive continuous improvement impact on their businesses. A well designed and implemented Visual Management board communicates if an organisation or team is having a “good or bad day” and provides a focal point for team meetings and briefs, helping to foster a winning team mentality. We believe that there are crucial elements to Visual Management Board design that can help boost the success of the boards.
1. Develop the design with the team
Engagement is key to Visual Management board success. To give Visual Management boards the best chance of smooth implementation and long-term prosperity, it is vital that the working teams feel like they have had input into the development and creation – they are invested. When a new way of working is imposed on people, it has a higher chance of creating negativity and suspicion towards it. Time spent jockeying people into keeping a board up to date is better spent completing value-added improvement activities, addressing the issues highlighted on Visual Management Boards.
VMT offer our clients the opportunity to receive a full-size paper print of a board design to trial with the working team ahead of the full order for a full Visual Management Board. This gives the team the chance to “red pen” the design and buy into the concept by offering their input.
2. Simplify the layout
Visual Management board layouts need to be easy to understand. Difficult to interpret company information can effectively become wallpaper as it is there all the time but never really looked at. Within a short time frame, it should be possible for anyone to interpret wherein a business they are standing, what the area is responsible for and how the area is performing. A board stuffed full of graphs might look impressive, but it is unlikely to encourage an organisation’s people to stay up to speed on company performance.
VMT develop Visual Management Board designs with and for our clients, and we will happily question a design if we think it is possibly trying to pack too much information into one layout.
3. Drive Continuous Improvement
We are often sent Visual Management Board designs to develop for our clients with an area on the board dedicated to ‘Issues’. This is a great start; however, without some agreed ownership and action triggered by the issue, all that is created is a problem parking area with an ever-increasing list of problems. If the list isn’t cleared, a perception may develop that there is no point in raising issues as nothing is ever done about it.
When we see these problem parking areas without ownership and action, we will suggest that our client adds: action (specific & achievable), owner & completion date sections. This keeps issues moving through the problem parking areas and drives continuous improvement.
4. Keep information relevant
If the information displayed isn’t current, it isn’t relevant. Data from three months ago isn’t reflective of recent performance or trends; things could have gotten significantly better or worse in that time. A few views of a board that hasn’t been recently updated will lose its appeal to attract future opinions from the individual.
VMT recommend the use of a ‘Board Owner’ and ‘Last updated’ box in the headline area of the board to serve two main purposes: Firstly, It gently encourages the owner of the board to keep the board up to date, and secondly it tells the viewer if it’s worth spending some moments to digest the information on offer. If the last update was a week ago, then the individual might want to wait until a more recent update is shown.
5. Display positive information
A working team that can see they are performing well against the target will feel part of a winning team. However, some successes can’t always be measured with KPIs and metrics. One-off actions or completed projects can have a fundamental effect on company success but have no visibility. The achievements should be displayed for all to see, reinforcing the winning team philosophy and encouraging workers to implement actions & continuous improvement beyond their day to day work.
Creating a dedicated space to manually wrote in individual and team successes. These should be acknowledged during stand-up meetings and briefs around the boards. This is particularly beneficial on a team level board where a mix of information such as KPI, trends, and issues is also on display.
6. Take a consistent approach
A joined-up approach across an organisation where a company’s values and objectives (sometimes referred to as policy deployment or balanced scorecard) link with individual teams is essential. Failure to do so will potentially result in the alienation of working teams/business units. To this end, it is essential that the Visual Management boards across the various levels of the business have a consistent look and feel to maintain the strong links across an organisation.
7. Be as graphic as possible
As humans, we respond much better to visual information than written. A Visual Management board with a high volume of written information will be challenging to look at and understand.
The use of relevant and straightforward graphs, status indicator magnets and infographics make a huge visual impact. The information they pass on will transcend technical knowledge and language barriers.
8. Inform and Update
Forewarned is forearmed; keeping team members abreast of upcoming projects and necessary company visits/audits gives individuals the chance to consider what they might need to put in place to perform their part in the company’s performance. It allows escalation and discussion of resources that might need to be available and potential issues in the delivery of a project or new requirement.
Setting a dedicated look-ahead area on a team board where upcoming events and projects can be manually noted down is enough to keep work teams informed and prepared.
9. Be visible
Heading text should be large enough on a Visual Management board that, combined with effective use of status indicator magnets, an instant audit of a process or production area’s health can be performed without close board analysis.
Preservation of minimal text and row heights will ensure that the information displayed should never be too small to be seen from a reasonable distance. A good Visual Management board shouldn’t require a “close” inspection.
10. Look good!
Visual Management boards should make a positive impact on the workplace. They should tell the workforce that there is a journey of continuous improvement, and they are invited. Engaging an individual’s senses with visual appeal ensures that the crew sees and feels the importance of a Visual Management initiative.
VMT employs skilled graphic designers who will always ensure that Visual Management boards meet aesthetic and functional requirements.