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Tips for Using Visual Management

Posted on by CATALYSIS

Visual management helps to support culture transformation by turning data into information that can help tell the story about the business. In her book, Beyond Heroes, Kim Barnas acknowledges that the idea of publicly displaying defects is hard for some healthcare leaders to accept but also explains that, “patients and family know our faults and trouble spots already. Our defects are not news to them.” The only way an organization can improve or prevent defects is to be aware of them.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when using visual management to help your team improve and prevent defects.

Keep it Simple

The first piece of advice for using visual management is to make it straightforward. A rule of thumb we often use is to ask yourself whether you can tell the status of performance within five seconds from five feet away. Visual management is a communication tool and good visual communication should not require interpretation to understand. Often teams choose to use colors like red and green or arrows to show if the target is being met.

Focus on the Critical Few

Be sure to narrow your focus. Too many measures create clutter and detract from what is most important. Hopefully, your organization has developed True North metrics and your team has specific measures to impact these targets. Items you put into your visual management should be the things you are actively working on and talking about. If this isn’t the case, then you don’t have visual management, you just have wallpaper.

It Must Mean Something to the User

Visual management must mean something to those using it, otherwise it is not adding value to the work. It is important to make sure that the data or information is presented in a way that resonates with the team. We suggest that you seek input on charts or graphs to make sure that they make sense to your team and that they can effectively explain them. For example, you might feel that a bar chart is the best way to display the data, but a pie chart might make more sense to the team. 

Be Sure to Track Actions Taken on Your Charts and Graphs

In addition to focusing your visual management to items you are currently working on, you will also want to ensure you display any actions taken that impact these items. When you are working on countermeasures it is likely that your team will implement changes and adjust processes. When a change occurs it is helpful to make a note of the change within your graph or chart so you can really see what impact (if any) that change is having on the measure. If you neglect this step, you may find yourself scrambling to explain variations in the data, or worse not being able to measure the impacts of your improvement efforts.

When thinking about your visual management remember to share the information that is meaningful and valuable and keep it current.  Visual management which is not kept updated does not add value to the work.  Make visuals that are easy to maintain, able to be posted to be seen throughout the day, and connected to the work happening in the area.

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