Tag Archives: visual management

Visual recording quick start

Template for strategy workshop

Visual recording is a method of processing and storing information using visuals combined with text instead of text only. We discussed it earlier in the blog post “Getting started with Visual Harvesting“. While I’m starting up a training in my organization, I had the opportunity to do a quick recap of the information, which is shared in this blog.

Don’t know what visual recording is? Please read this blog first.


The slideset for the training can be found here: http://www.slideshare.net/KarelNijs/opleiding-visual-harvesting-slides


You don’t need paper to visual record your meeting, seminar or whatever. There’s an app for that” is also valid in these case. With these apps I’m able to do visual harvests at my iPad. You can use your finger, a digital pen or a Wacom pressure sensitive pen. I does take some time to get used to working on an iPad, but you immediately have your digital result ready to share.

Websites / links

Visual recording examples

Following examples I am allowed to share (no copyright or confidentiality):

Visual recording professionals



Thanks @ Leni for helping with this content!

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Become a Lean entrepreneur

EntrepreneurA colleague told me: “A lot of companies have magical front doors: people enter and only do their job from 9 to 5h. They are complacent. But once they leave through those doors, they start leading soccer teams, starting up clubs and taking up creative hobby’s. What’s happening?”

Lean asks input from all levels of the hierarchy: the top and certainly also the work floor; the people who are doing the day-to-day job.

Entrepreneurs look, find and take initiative. They discover, learn and grow. They undertake action, check for risks and seize opportunities.
Entrepreneurs launch, take up responsibility and harvest the benefits.

What are the Lean building blocks again?

How can you become a Lean entrepreneur?

  • Inventorize problems, bottlenecks and opportunities that come back every day in your assignments.
    What is bothering you? What can be changed?
  • Collect issues and wastes in the issue area on your whiteboard, in your Lean idea box, in your online community, …
  • Introduce ideas and proposals during team meetings and huddles.
  • Actively seek for improvement opportunities. Keep your eyes and ears open.
    Try to take a look from a distance.
  • Seize opportunities like customer feedback, process improvement, introspection, feedback talks, …
  • In which case were you only able react to the situation? What could you have done up front to prevent it from occurring?

There’s no need to wait until you have written a 30 pager describing the problem/opportunity.
Create a proposition, check with a colleague if needed and discuss with your team.

What if you are afraid?

Those who don’t try, can’t fail! But sometime the chance of failure is scaring us.
Was I wrong? What will people think of me? How will my team leader react? Did I step out of line?

You can overcome this fear by discussing your ideas with a team colleague up front.
Formulate your problem on a constructive way and emphasize on the benefits for your team.
Take a look at the risks of the opportunity and see how we can mitigate them.

But also evaluate: what is the risk and cost of doing nothing instead of trying something?
So, knowing all of this… what is holding you back?

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Time never stops

DesertLast night i saw a scientific documentary “Wonders of the Universe” where they discussed the concept of time. We notice time because things are changing. Things are changing because they get energy from the sun and other stars. At the last hours of the universe, all stars (suns) will be dead and all material used. There is no more energy. Since there is no more energy, nothing is changing. When nothing ever changes, the concept of time stops.

So if the sun is still shining and there’s plenty of energy available, why does time stop at so many visual management stations and even whole departments? We can’t see anything moving: the KPIs look frozen, the steering board is not updated, old fish bones from RCA workshops decorate the walls, visual material is outdated, … Only the team plan boards seem to move because work is taking place.

If this sounds familiar to you: what are you waiting for?

  • If your KPIs were only suited for a specific time period, replace them by relevant ones.
  • Find better KPIs if the current ones are not suited at all. There is no need to hang on to measurements that are not working.
  • Plan a 5S action at your department and clean up all old material from RCA, VSM and other workshops.
  • If you team steering board or plan board or dashboard is not working, start from scratch and invite your team to design a new one.
  • Clean up success stories and customer feedback to make place for new one.
  • Put a reminder in your agenda to do this each month.
  • etc

Keep in mind: outdated information is wrong information.

Time is ticking…

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From push to pull for task assignments

There are different ways for creating plan boards (see also “From team planboard to team scoreboard“) for ICT teams and these are dependent of the development methodology that is used (eg. waterfall, V-model, Kanban, Agile, …).

In many cases, the risk exists that the number of assignments for one team member (or more) gets out of hand. You can see this for example by the many Post-Its on the plan board in a typical “to start” or “busy” column.

There is a solution for this and it’s called Kanban.


The word “kanban” comes from Japan and means “card”. In the early days of Lean (manufacturing), one referred to kanban as the visual trigger for pull systems. An example from today is a colored marking of the last cigarette rolling paper you take from the role. Today, the word “kanban” is used in many contexts.

In short, the Kanban we described today is an method for ICT assignments that:

  • Divides large assignments into manageable blocks.
  • Makes the workflow visible (which can be as easy as: ToDo, Busy, Done).
  • Limits the number of work in progress assignments (for each team member, for the team, etc).
  • Measures the cycle time of each assignment with as goal optimizing the process flow.

Henrik Kniberg created a good and easy readable guide for it which can be found here: http://www.crisp.se/henrik.kniberg/Kanban-vs-Scrum.pdf

The Kanban system Henrik describes uses also a pull mechanism: assignments are put in a “to plan” column and after the ICT team member completes his assignment and gets a free slot, he can “pull” the assignment from “to plan” into “busy”.

In this blog entry I would like to take a closer look at the pull mechanism behind Kanban when we apply it to getting assignments from the related business party, ie. the customer.


In a push environment, the related business party would push the work to the ICT team. For example, for release X you have to create #Y websites. The ICT team gets the whole assignment at once and it’s not clear what the priorities are, nor what to do first and next. The pitfall here is to work at multiple or even too many assignments at once, and deliver no full scope at the end of the release.

If the ICT team uses visual management, the whiteboard would look something like on the image below (picture from “Agile principles in a maintenance environment” (NL). This can be very demotivating for the team members who see a buck load of tasks coming their way.

Team plan board

Team plan board


If you can related to picture above, a first step you could take is making separated columns “to plan” and “priority”, and limit the amount of possible assignments per team member. Together with the team you can select on a regular base which assignments get priority and move from “to plan” to “priority”. When a team member has a free slot, he can take up a task from the “priority” column and start with executing. But we can go a step further with pulling and integrate the Voice Of the Customer (VOC).

With a pull mechanism, the ICT team will have a limited number of assignments on their whiteboard. The team members will only have these assignments and no other stuff to worry about. But how can the customer give his input regarding priorities?

One solution I came across was to create a plan board for the customer too. The customer (or the product responsible) can use the plan board for picking priorities for all the IT stuff they want to get created. These priorities can change during the release period, but that’s discussed in the customer team. On a regular base, the ICT team meets with its customer and goes through the new batch of high priority assignments.

From push to pull

From push to pull

This approach has the advantage that the customer can change priorities during development and ICT team members get less stressed when not all assignments are dropped at once in their ToDo box and have clarity regarding priorities at all times. By meeting on regular intervals, the ICT team attunes more with the customer and the customer has the guarantee that the ICT team is working at the right assignments, ie. doing the right things (which leads to more effectiveness).

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Best practices for Value Stream Mapping workshops

Value Stream Mapping is an advanced problem solving technique that is used to map the current state, to identify critiques and opportunities, and to create the future state.

We do value stream mapping workshops on a regular base, but what can we learn from them? This posts focusses best practices in the area of preparation, execution and follow-up of the VSM workshop.

Defaults like “start on time”, “training”, etc. are omitted, unless it’s considered critical.
I am sure there are many more best practices ready to be shared, so please do!

Preparation of the workshop

  What was learned? Why is it critical?
1 Logistics: Make sure you reserve at least two hours. Avoid stopping before the future flow and action plan are created
2 Logistics: make sure the room is large enough, book in time, check available tools, create workshop kit with different colored Post-Its and markers. Avoid loosing time on start
3 Logistics: make your brown paper large enough for the process, but not too large. Be able to capture the complete process, but avoid loosing yourself into the details.
4 Pick your main contributors. Avoid actions & results which are not accepted after the workshop.
5 Choose a third party facilitator when diving into political/sensitive issues or you are a key contributor yourself. Facilitation & contributing at once is not possible.
6 Map high level flow with eg. SIPOC Save time during the workshop
7 Observe the value stream: walk the process Talk with people who do the work to get insights and critiques. Find inputs and outputs. Discover and experience all steps.
8 Decide on the goal of the workshop. Avoid analysis paralysis.

During the workshop

  What was learned? Why is it critical?
6 Clarify the role of the coach. Avoid the impression of supervision or audit.
7 Agree on the VSM scope with the group. Set focus/goal. Avoid discussions on workshop start.
8 Respect the order of the steps: map the current flow first, find critiques for the process and design future flow. We need the AS IS first before we can start with the TO BE process.
9 Waste & value. Repeat what value means for the customer. Repeat the 8 wastes with the group: Transport, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Overproduction, OverProcessing, Defects, Unused human talent. Hang for display. Prepare for critiques.
10 Start from the last step Start from the end product. Determine yourself where to stop: test, develop, design, analysis. Make sure you have measurable end product
10 Strong facilitation. When in problems maintain the process. Stay out of the content. Adjust agenda to group dynamics.
11 Use visual management to differentiate between steps, roles, inputs and critiques. Keep the overview. Avoid confusion.
12 Look actively for rework and “go back” loops. Identify and eleminate waste. Increase delivered value.
13 Deliver clear action plan with assigned follow-up responsible. Make sure the road to results is paved.

After the workshop

  What was learned? Why is it critical?
13 Follow-up on action plan. Ensure personal actions that were assigned and agreed are follow-up.
14 Digitalize flow. Avoid loosing the time spent. Keep result for further optimations.
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From team planboard to team scoreboard

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.

Plan boards

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…

Steering boards

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)?

Team scoreboards

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!

Team scoreboard

Team scoreboard


  • 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?
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A team barometer for customer interaction

What do you get when you combine visual management and a team barometer applied to your internal customers? An opportunity to improve your team member’s and customer’s experience!

Today I attended a lecture about the Lean efforts of Achmea, the biggest insurance group of the Netherlands. They showed us something very familiar: a team barometer which uses the power of visual management to broadcast the emotional state of the team members.

But they took it a step further than the standard one-dimensional team barometer. The standard one-dimensional team barometer only displays the feelings of a team member at a particular time. The barometer the Achmea team was using, had two dimensions: one for the team members and one for the customer.

Team customer barometer

Team customer barometer

Management let the team members score their interactions with their different customers.


Like with a RACI matrix you can do a horizontal and a vertical analysis on the matrix. With the horizontal analysis it is possible to identify the general mood of the team member. In the example you can see there some action needed with Jef. A vertical analysis can be used for identifying focus areas for customer interaction. In the example, the team has in general a bad experience with the interaction with customer Y. A survey of both the team (Voice of the Business) or the customer (Voice Of the Customer) may improve the experience of both.


Lean is (among other things) all about the customer and customer interaction. In mature Lean organizations the internal customer is involved in different ways like surveys, daily stand-ups, KPIs and setting priorities. Can the approach written above be used in a mature context where the customer visits the work floor? What would you say to customer Y when he shows up at your whiteboard and see his score? Also, would this way of working feed a “blame culture”?

The only way to know it, is to give it a try. Be open and honest with your customer. Treat him like you expect him to treat you when he completes your surveys. A culture where healthy conflict thrives is perfect.

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