Friday, May 30, 2003

Why Have Visuals If You Don’t Take Action?

I’ve seen several examples the last few days of good visual management tools being rendered ineffective by one simple thing; a lack of attention.

Why does an airline pilot have an altimeter? An airspeed indicator? A compass? Do the passengers want to know how high they are or their direction? Do they care? Have you ever been on a flight with a chatty pilot who keeps coming on and giving you all sorts of data? Does it help? No. It just disturbs your sleep or reading or enjoyment of the stale peanuts.

The passenger wants to get to the destination safely and on time. How high the flight, the exact course, the precise airspeed; all are irrelevant to the passenger. Safety and arrival time are fully relevant.

So, it is not these gauges that the passenger cares about. Rather, it is the actions the pilot takes in response to those gauges that the passenger cares passionately about. The data adds no value…the actions are full of value.

To my point: Strong visual measurement tools, be they painted lines for machine location or a plan vs. actual whiteboard, are irrelevant of themselves. Value is created only when those viewing them take action to bring them into line with expectations.

Why do we tolerate visual tools that are not acted on? Why have meaningless numbers posted? Worse, why have relevant numbers that create no sense of comfort (if they show the plane to be on course) or corrective action (if they show the plane off course)? Why would a lean leader ignore or be blind to clear visual indicators?

I’m getting less tolerant…perhaps my rant will help you be less tolerant as well. Take some action on your gauges today.

I hope this is helpful. Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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