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Think lean be a visual manager

The foundation of a successful lean enterprise includes “respect for people.” Conveying that respect requires simple but effective and visible communication.


August 8, 2011
by Richard Kunst

The foundation of a successful lean enterprise includes “respect for people.” Conveying that respect requires simple but effective and visible communication. But what you believe to be effective communication might not be working because the receiver interprets the message much differently than what was intended.

There are three distinct ways to communicate and digest information. Orators read a manual or assembly instructions from cover-to cover before taking action. Visual people like to be shown how to do a task. A touch “receptor” actually touches and experiences the elements of the process so it becomes programmed into his/her brain.

A good Standard Visual Work Instruction (SVWI) will pretty much cover all three of the common communication modes.

Where to start? Most people relate to the visual or touch categories and if those fail, will resort to orator tools. Start effective communication in your meeting rooms and cafeterias: make instructions simple, yet easily understood and positive.

Use pictures. They’re a universal language that everyone understands. If the creation of a SVWI requires more than one page, the assignment is too complex.  Simplify the content or break it down into more meaningful miniature tasks.

Have individuals or teams go through the exercise of creating a SVWI where confusion, misunderstanding or conflict is occurring about role responsibility or accountability.

SVWIs are not created for operations but rather as an auditing tool for management to insure standard work practices are being followed. Call it your “current best practice.” This will psychologically empower your people to seek improvements and constantly enhance the process.

Everyone should be empowered to suggest new best practices, so simplify the creation of a new work instruction.

Richard Kunst is president and CEO of Kunst Solutions Corp., which publishes the “Lean Thoughts” e-newsletter. E-mail rkunst@kunstartofsolutions.com.