In companies around the world you can see many forms of visual management. Whiteboards, brown papers and flip charts are used to broadcast team information. There is a difference though in the type of information that is radiated (Agile refers to it as “information radiators”) to the team, management and others.
First of all we can identify “plan boards”. Plan boards are whiteboards used for no more than planning purposes. You can find a description and pictures of such a plan board in blog post “Agile principes in een maintenance omgeving“. The size, type and contents of plan board vary according to the team which are using them: waterfall project teams, Agile project teams, maintenance teams, Kanban teams, …
A physical plan board is needed to set focus if the team has resource planning issues or is working in a high volatile maintenance environment. We see these physical plan boards disappearing into digital plan boards like for example Jira.
So why would you need an information radiator after all? This is how we get to the other type…
Whiteboards (and other media) can also be used for steering your team, department, company, … Steering boards contain information like vision, mission, strategy, KPIs and action lists. For each KPI there is a base, target and plan, accompanied by an action list: what are you going to do to reach your planned (intermediary targets)?
If you would like to stress team work, you need a combination of both. You need day-to-day management information so your team knows which assignments to work at, and you need information which can be used for steering your team. Further, to keep people motivated, you need a common goal. Why does the team exist? Who are my customers? What is the vision of my customer and what are we offering to make that happen?
In the literature they compare it with a scoreboard for soccer games. A soccer team is composed of different players which each have their performance metrics like goals and assists, but there is one common goal for the team: winning. During the 1,5 hour match the team uses the scoreboard to set focus and to cooperate as a team to reach their target: winning the match.
So how would a team scoreboard look like?
It’s maybe trivial, but add your team name and optionally your team members. How do you expect somebody to relate to a board full of printouts?
To know why the team exists, we need to know who the customer is and what his vision is. With the customer vision, the team vision can be created. If not available, check your department or company vision and translate it to your team. (Let’s further discuss vision, mission and strategy in another blog entry)
Make visual what the current focus (or thematic goal) for your team is. The could be something like “all production incidents are solved within 2 days”. Thematic goals are variable and can change during time.
Use team KPIs to express how your team is doing. Use the KPIs for decisions and steering.
There is a limited planning part available which makes the difference between a limited number of high priority tasks and the others.
Provide a space for people to ventilate: add a waste basket or issue list to identify improvement opportunities.
Both the KPIs and the waste basket / issue list are parts of the PDCA cycle (Plan – Do – Check – Act), also known as the “Deming wheel”.
Last but not least, celebrate successes! Start with small things, but do not forget to reward your team effort in public!
- Place the whiteboard where the work happens.
- Facilitate your daily huddles in front of the whiteboard.
- Put dates on each print-out. Avoid old print-outs.
- The devil is in the details!
- Put the right amount of information on your whiteboard.
- Make sure your whiteboard is readable from afar.
- Go and see how your neighbours, counterparties, customers and management is working with visual management. What are they displaying? What did or didn’t work for them?
- Visit the teams before and after you in the process to see where work is coming from and going to. How are they working?