A Party Game for Visual Management Lovers

We know King County employees can create some cool visual management systems to improve hiring processes and vehicle maintenance outcomes.

Can King County employees create a visual management system to reduce national energy consumption? Can they do it during lunch?

It turns out the answers are yes and yes.

Three groups of King County employees work on visual management systems to drive energy usage reduction.
Three groups of King County employees develop visual management systems to drive energy usage reduction in a mock national energy management scenario.

Here’s an exercise that can help improve your team’s work and bolster the outcomes you are trying to achieve. Or maybe you prefer to think of it as a fun party game for Lean lovers and visual management aficionados:

Electricity usage: If a country used 10M kilowatts/day and wanted to reduce that number to 9M kilowatts/day, how would you set up a visual management system for all involved to achieve that goal?
Assumptions: There are 10 cities in the country, there are 10,000 households in each city and there are 2 people that live in each household.  Each household uses the same amount of electricity.
Create a visual management system that cascades the Electricity Usage metric for; Country, City, Household, Person. This can include visual indicators, problem solving tools, devices, signage, etc.

That’s what a group of King County employees did during a recent lunch discussion and workshop in which they learned about and practiced Lean visual management.

Three teams brainstormed visual management tools and systems in order share energy consumption information and drive individual behavior change. And they came up with some pretty cool ideas, such as tools to compare cities and households for targeting high usage outliers; indicators of household energy consumption broken out by time of day and activity, and then rolled up by neighborhood city and person; real-time “scorecards,” apps that flag high usage, and even timers for showers. And many other ideas, as seen on one board:

One team's board

The discussion also spurred conversation about other tools that teams could use to accompany the visual management. One team came up with a “rollover” concept similar to cell phone minutes.

A few things to keep in mind if you want to incorporate visual management in your work…or just want to play the game:

A Visual Management System is not:

  • a cookie cutter implementation of something that worked somewhere else
  • a series of posters, graphs and signs that don’t mean anything to the people who do the work
  • a system that operates on its own without help from the people who do the work
  • another bucket of work for someone to add to an already busy schedule

A Visual Management System is:

  • a system that can help identify problems and opportunities for improvement in your processes
  • crucial for displaying current information on how processes are operating vs. the target
  • a different way of talking about processes with and for the people who do the work

Visual Management is Important because it:

  • Provides a common and consistent way to communicate the progress and/or performance of a process
  • Provides quick glance information of how a process is performing against its target
  • It can be easily understood by anyone and everyone, and also makes it obvious as to what should be done next
  • It is transparent and provides vital and correct information to the people that are doing the work

Using Visual Management can:

  • Show abnormal conditions in a process by way of a visual indicator (i.e. light, flag, etc.)
  • Provide information for effective team problem solving
  • Prevent defects from being created (i.e. slotted parts, electronic forms that only accept a certain type of information)
  • Show a clear path for either physical or virtual flows

The exercise could be conducted using a variety of topics and targets: reducing car accidents, cutting calorie intake or increasing exercise, bolstering recycling, or pretty much any other topic in which metrics could be rolled up from a local to a global level.

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