Visual Management boosts self-organization

Depending on their job, some teams must adapt every day according to incoming flows, daily events and scheduled absences. It’s common to see a manager assigning tasks to his subordinates based on context and a goal known only to himself (after all, he knows better than anyone else…). Not so often we can observe a daily self-organizing team focusing its attention to respond to its customers’ needs.

The objective of visual management is to understand together, see together and act together. It isn’t a nonsense neither a wishful thinking. Change is possible if the environment is designed to help people succeed, that is to say offer them the possibility of gaining / regaining self-confidence, trust in the team and confidence in management, all based on the continuous learning of individuals, the right to make mistakes and the support of management.

As Cécile Roche says, Visual Management means “working as a team, in order to know what are the important things to put on the walls that will allow us to make the right decision at the right time.”

Let’s take a closer look at a team’s life… A support team of ten people has embarked on a Lean Management approach to reduce incoming requests and improve (in terms of quality and time) their processing with the aim of fully satisfying its customers.

Understanding together

Understanding together means understanding as a team the customer’s expectations. What does she want? When does she want it? Where does she want it? What is the right product for her? What customer’s problem will the team solve with their product or service? How to “Wow” the customers with the product or service?

Understanding together means having the right knowledge of the product / service that the team is working on. This means knowing where the problems are (as an example: the mapping of file transfer flows visually showing – in red – the KO channels).

To understand together is to understand the production process that the team uses to craft the product or service. This process must be analyzed regularly to detect variability (4M: Machine, Material, Method, Manpower) and waste (transportation, inventory, motion, waiting, overproduction, over-processing, defects) in order to reduce or them, or even remove them.

Understanding together also means understanding the team. Obviously, we must know who is present to organize the activity of the day, but it’s also understanding the skills of each one to make a good piece. As an example, the red bins can be used to detect a need for a training (Dojo, Kata …) for one or more people on a very specific point.

Understanding together also means understanding the product and how it fits into the strategic vision of management. It’s for this reason that in the Obeya (the large room where the product’s development is managed), the product is displayed on the wall in order to make design issues, quality issues and customer preference parameters visible.

Understanding together, finally, is making things visible, flows, problems, successes, measures … It’s also stopping spending your time producing dozens of Excel® spreadsheets, hundreds of operational reporting; sometimes (often?) modified with the unholy motive of keeping management under-informed and thus avoid the wrath of a hierarchy reluctant to get out of its Taylorist world.

While respecting the principle of Visual Management mentioned above, the team focuses on performance measures allowing to see what comes in and what comes out daily, without forgetting the customer’s perception of the services provided. This step highlighted the team’s handling of requests that are not within its scope. Everyone knew it, but nobody – perhaps the person working on this subject, or not – had a single idea of ​​the volume and time spent dealing with them. They are now incorporated into the measures.

Measurement is the arbiter as it is factual (attested, observable, real), it enabled the team to identify everything that entered its processes and provided it with a clear vision of its work. Before that, it knew that it received a hundred or so calls a day, today the teams knows precisely on a day to day basis, the incoming volume, the outgoing volume and the stock to be treated.

In addition, the team makes visible – with the support of development teams – the next releases of application versions (providing corrections or changes), production incidents that occurred in the last few days with the workaround to troubleshoot users requesting support.

The KPIs are in place, displayed on a wall and visible to everyone. The team begins to see together during the daily meeting led by the team leader. It begins to take over its own functioning.

See together

By looking at the displayed measures every day, the team enters into new considerations and begins to ask questions: “Why did the stock increase by 53 on the 13th?”, “Why did we process only 13 requests and less than 10 incidents on the 17th? “,” How many people were we on the 16th? “,” And the 17th? “,” Tomorrow, we will be 3 people less than today and a new version of MyAdvisor, used by 350 people, was delivered into production this morning morning; how will we handle it ?”…

Note: to make easier the understanding of the variation of the values of the KPI, it’s important to indicate on the graphs the reasons for peaks and valleys, otherwise after a few days the information is lost. The measurements are presented every day by members of the team.

The team begins to think about its own organization to satisfy its customers, with the benevolence of its manager who supports the approach and doesn’t intervene into their thought.

Act together

The team decides to post its activity on a wall to materialize their various processes, then each person handles one or more processes according to their habits. The exercise then highlights the not covered processes due to the absence – planned and unforeseen – of certain team members. This results in  greater awareness: people, depending on their skills and ability, can handle all or part of the remaining processes.

The team becomes self-adaptive and polymorphic instead of being wait-and-see and almost static out of habit. IT makes itsown decisions based on measured and indisputable facts. Doing so, she is testing her own collective thinking. If the results displayed by the measurement are not those expected, the team will see it, figure out why and act differently.

Example of Visual Management

From the KPIs, the team knows, as indicated above, whether there is a problem or not. If there is a deviation – particularly in terms of quality – the team acts in double-trigger:

1. Protect the customer: the team self-organizes in order to not transmit a defect to the customer. This is the principle of the quality wall.

2. Solve this problem once and for all.

Whatever the results, everyone learns; the team itself learns. Thus it creates a collective memory which, day after day, is enriched by its experience – which is collective itself – allowing it, while always relying on measure, to decide for itself. It’s at this precise moment that the concept of team (to equip> old Norman skipa> skip “ship”) takes all its sense, because if all the crew members of a ship fight each other rather than face the storm together, everybody will sink.

Every day, during the team ritual, the collective intelligence of the team questions its own organization to determine if it’s really aimed to fully satisfy its customers according to the context of the day.

Written by Jean-Philippe Douet, translated by Paul Gette

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