Visual Management Tools

Sometimes we intentionally make our work more visible so that we can more easily see what’s going on. We do this so that, as a group, we get a better picture of the whole of the group’s effort. At it’s best, this is more than a dashboard that displays information. Instead, it’s a tool that’s used by the people doing the work in the process of doing that work.

It’s important for such a display to be able to accurately describe the state of the work. If it leaves some state or aspect to be implicitly understood, it damages the tale that the tool can tell. One of the advantages of using a physical manifestation for such a tool is that the arrangement can be easily modified to handle special cases or situations that were not envisioned when the tool was first set up.

Sometimes people ask the tool to control people’s behavior. Of course, it cannot do that. People will behave the way they behave. If you try to use the tool to control behavior, perhaps by making it impossible for the tool to display a situation you want to discourage, you certainly damage the tools value. Rather than prevent the behavior, the inability will merely make it invisible. There must be a corollary of Goodhart’s Law here.

Instead, a good Visual Management Tool will display whatever is the reality, both desired and undesired. This makes visible the more abstract reality. Once it is visible, we can notice it, see patterns in it, and have a conversation about it. It is the conversation and the resulting mutual decisions that can change behavior.

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Comments (1) to “Visual Management Tools”

  1. Hi George,
    You are so right! Displaying the reality should drive whatever we display in the tool. What is your view on using such tools to influence behavior rather than controlling them?
    Thanks,
    Rahul

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