Our friends at Lean Sigma Institute are running another excellent Green and Yellow Belt Lean Six Sigma training program at our offices in South Melbourne, 6/7 October. We are developing and are close to launching the first accredited Lean Construction Program in Australia shortly. Watch this space.
On major projects, dealing with issues is very often a reactionary process, with meetings being called as frequently as problems arise. The danger of this approach is that the flurry of activity can create a false sense of resolution in which decisions have been made and actions agreed, but without the necessary follow up or accountability to ensure that they are actually realised. The inherent risk is that while leadership teams are busy solving the immediate issues, the root causes are not being addressed.
The VIS Board Process is a tool which has emerged out of Lean philosophy, designed to map out a project in its entirety and offer a level of transparency such that issues, causes and solutions are immediately visible to all.
What are the benefits of Visual Management?
- Accurate, up to date status and metrics at a glance
- Ability to detect abnormal operating conditions quickly
- Highlighting gaps, risk areas and potential cracks needing attention
- Completion of tasks quickly using a standardised approach
- Promoting on-the-spot resolution and decision making
- Creating a culture of continuous improvement
- Promoting accountability and open dialogue
- Visibility across all levels of management
How does Visual Management work?
It comprises a system of tiered meetings that are based around specifically formatted whiteboard displays called VIS boards. These meetings range from daily updates within a specific area to a weekly review of all areas with the CEO. From the lowest level to the highest, all boards show:
- What: critical issues, key metrics and KPIs
- Where: performance against targets, current status
- Who: person responsible for resolving the issue
- When: strategic timing of requirements
- How: action plan and methodology
By referring to these metrics and using actuals rather than estimates, analysis and reporting can be drawn from a single source of truth. Visual aids help employees grasp complex requirements and complete tasks more quickly using a standardised approach by providing instructions, directions and reminders to action owners.
What difference does Visual Management make to performance?
By using the VIS Board Process and incorporating it into other process improvements in areas such as planning, design turnaround times and review processes, output can increase 100+% and improvements will seldom be less than 20-30%. It is important to use meaningful, specific metrics when gauging success as these will significantly affect the level of accountability and results within project teams.
In addition, one of the most significant benefits of the system, especially when applied within the stringent time-frames and milestones inherent to all major projects, is the immediate yet meaningful resolution of key issues. Meetings are solutions-focused and driven by up-to-date information, so it is easy for a team to see exactly what the problem is and therefore easier for them to find a solution. This is particularly beneficial to lower level staff that may be relying on a quick decision in order to move forward with their work.
What difference does Visual Management make to the workplace?
It is a powerful tool for developing project culture as it increases productivity and offers ownership and involvement to everyone who contributes to the success and failure of the project. As the process evolves and participants become comfortable with the expectations and structures in place, they also become reliable sources of information and beacons for others to gain knowledge from.
In addition, the VIS Board Process provides management and leadership with a frank appraisal of the challenges faced by their workforce, promoting an open and honest operating environment which relieves pressure and contributes to the wellness of the team.
Is Visual Management for you?
The VIS Board Process is adaptable to any workplace and offers enormous value to any business or project that is intrepid enough to openly tackle its own weaknesses and embrace innovation and change.
Sources: Jana Michaels and Hunter Dean, Systemix Consultants
Leveraging the information already resident in your people and company may be one of the most effective things you can do to decrease waste, increase productivity and even the longevity of your people’s commitment to the organisation.
Is a reluctance to change holding you back?
In most cases, people are busily getting on with what they do in the way they’re most comfortable. And that just happens to be the way they’ve always done things. A natural resistance to change (or uncertainty), coupled with the tendency not to do things until they have to be done (which is often too late), can result in errors and inefficiencies that seem to be built into the system.
Many companies struggle with instituting change, let alone a practiced philosophy of continuous improvement. Yet, as we move at a faster pace and competitive advantages become more and more focused on efficiency, making change on a regular basis and constantly improving is almost essential.
According to Hunter Dean, a Knowledge Management expert and Lean Enterprise consultant at Systemix, the role of business leaders today is as much about providing vision and the traditional aspects of leadership as steering an organisation toward effective knowledge management and leveraging learnings.
Knowledge is power
“Organisations that can truly learn from their experiences, both good and not so good, become very smart, very fast. This gives them confidence and agility which makes them very difficult competition”, Hunter explains.
Knowledge management and actively leveraging learnings are both critical factors at an organisational and project level to competing successfully in today’s market. So how do you approach this in your business?
Information is not enough
Your servers and people are no doubt full of information. But unless this information is retrieved, managed, shared and integrated in an effective manner it cannot translate to knowledge.
When it comes to determining if your information is truly knowledge, consider these few questions:
If your team learnt something of value today, how likely is it that…
- They will still be using it still in six months?
- That new recruits or people in other business areas will learn this too?
- They will still be using and refining this information in 2 years or 5 years?
Knowledge is something that is resident in the company, not just the people or one or two divisions. It’s like the corporate wiki that everyone turns to and learns from.
So the key competency becomes: ‘How do we embed know-how for the long haul?’
Embedding know-how for the long haul
Systemix uses the ‘Know-how Pyramid’, an illustration of how information becomes knowledge that can reduce risk, increase productivity and overall business performance. Developed by a partner organisation, Information Leadership © 2012
Working through the pyramid, Systemix move organisations from the informal know-how space to the ‘definitive’ space where knowledge now underpins the fundamental functions of the business.
The process to achieve this involves the thorough investigation of either a project team or organisation as it is now in relation to the pyramid. This will reveal critical insights into the areas where knowledge is seeping away and how it can be harnessed more effectively. Then, through collaboration and communication, people can see the insights for themselves and design a new pyramid to work toward.
“Once we have communicated the insights we gain from this process, we focus on training and developing a roadmap to strengthen the method for learnings staying learnt,” says Hunter.
Through tightening business processes and workflows, implementing mechanisms to drive improvement, measuring the right things, making information more available through hard systems and zeroing in on key messages to communicate, an organisation or team can quickly become ‘smarter’ and more effective in a short space of time.