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Lean Tools, Training, and Systems

Visual Management

Team Accountability Board and other visual controls for visual management

Lean Visual Management Boards

Whenever you add a new element to your lean production system,
you should also quickly add supporting lean management elements.


Every lean tool needs
a corresponding
Lean Coaching System

Focus on Visual Controls

When you focus on visual controls,
the other 2 elements will quickly and naturally follow.

Essential elements
of any lean management system

  1. Visual controls
  2. Routine accountability habits
  3. Leader Standard Work


What are Lean Visual Controls?

The term 'lean visual controls' can broadly include...

Any intuitively-easy-to-understand system for monitoring and controlling a process

with examples ranging from kanbans to painted golf balls,

but most common is the visual control chart

A visual control chart is...

any printed or hand-written chart that:

  • is used for monitoring or controlling any aspect of production
  • is posted in plain sight very near the place where the actual work is done
  • is frequently updated with the latest results

    timely enough to effectively respond to problems, not just historical post mortems

  • graphically highlights problems
  • has notes clearly articulating the reasons for 'misses'

    (differences between expected vs. actual results)

  • can ideally be understood at a glance by anyone passing by
Visual Management Board

Visual Management Board

Data hidden in a computer is not visual

A visual management system must be visual.

Data hidden inside a computer does not meet the above criteria
until perhaps it is printed, or otherwise reproduced in a way that meets the above criteria.

Balance between Computer and Handwritten

Visual Management Systems

Hand-entered data is better for

  • Embarrassment

    When you are the author,
    are you proud
    of what you deliver?

    Ownership "fingerprints"
  • Timely data entry onto the printed form
  • Auditor initials

Computer-generated charts and forms
are better for

  • Creating the underlying printed form
    (that needs to be consistent, legible, easily reprinted...)
  • Computational accuracy
  • Charts
  • Data analysis
  • Sharing and archiving

Most lean visual management systems include a diverse assortment of visual controls,
each with its own balance of hand-written and computer-generated elements.


Visual Management Examples

Examples of process improvement tools used as Visual Controls

Visual Management Tools
To lead and manage any team Storyboard Many visual templates
for Lean Leadership, and
Lean Management Systems
For assessment of each team's overall progress on their lean journey Lean Assessment Excel templateLean Assessment

For workplace organization
and cleanliness

to reveal problems
so they can be eliminated

5S trends 5S Scorecard

To understand how each process fits in the value stream

and to track key metrics to ensure that each process is not obstructing overall flow

Value Stream Map

Value Stream Map

To keep every team working in alignment with strategic objectives Hoshin X-Matrix templateHoshin Strategic Planning Policy Deployment
To keep the team focused on their biggest issues Pareto Chart

Pareto Chart

Critical To Quality Tree

Visual Task Assignment Board

published on your
Team Accountability Board

Bowling Chart

Value Stream Plan

Bowling Chart

Event Action Plan

Gantt Summary

or similar Team To Do List

Monitor currently active projects

What's the team currently working on?

How are they coming with that?

PDCA Coaching

PDCA template

A3 Reports

Kata Coaching

To measure expected vs. actual results for ANY measure of team performance

Process Analysis

Process AnalysisResults Measurement

Old State Comparison

To publish the results of audits of team performance
Kaizen Event Audit form Standard Work Audit
Various Audit forms (Kaizen, Standard Work, TPM, 5S...)
To monitor quality Trends

Run Charts

Trend Charts

Control Charts

Check Sheets

To graphically depict the relationship between ANY two factors affecting an issue.

Quadrant ChartQuadrant Chart




For a flow operation
designed to run at takt time

also for tracking expected to actual arrival times for 'water spider' material flow supplies

Pitch Log Pitch Log Monthly Trends

Daily Production
Pitch Chart

and Monthly Pitch Log
(for trend analysis)

Or to level the flow of both demand volume and mix variety Heijunka Box

Heijunka Box

which technically is not a control chart,
but is a lean visual system


Job Log



and Job-by-Job Tracking chart

of expected to actual setup and run times

Pull system kanban order replenishment Lean Pull Queue Priority Board

Expected vs. actual
replenishment cycle time


Priority Board Hourly Status chart

Preventative Maintenance TPM Checklist

TPM Checklist

OEE bar charts
and waterfall charts

To visually tell a story

of what challenges your team faced, and how you smashed those problems into submission

A3 Report

A3 Report

Event Results


To remind team members of why decisions were made

and agreed upon

Root Cause Fishbone Diagram

Root Cause Analysis

Decision making tools

To ensure that team members are trained

and cross trained

Training Matrix

Training Matrix

TWI Training Within Industry

Standard Work

to remind people of the way that everyone agreed to do it

and to ensure that people are actually doing things the way you think they are

Work Instructions

Standard Work templates

Visual Work Instructions

Visual Management Systems are foundational to any Lean System


Guidelines to invent your own

Visual Management Boards

These templates provide an excellent starting point

Why reinvent?

Why reinvent?

so that your expensive Black Belts aren't wasting time re-inventing tools that are common to many production and office environments...

but once your people understand the tools and systems that are readily available, and start to conceive ideas to make them even better to meet the unique needs of your unique processes...

then, yes, absolutely...

Invent your own visual controls

Starting with either:

  1. Any one of the above templates

    that provides a good starting point to give you a great start

  2. A blank template

    that gives your custom tool all the value-add features common to all of your 150+ Systems2win templates

  3. A blank Excel workbook

    If you enjoy the challenge, and your employer is wiling to pay you for the non-value-add time to start from a white page and a blinking cursor

  4. A creative idea

    Although Visual Control Charts are the most common type of visual control,
    they aren't your only choice.

    Kanban signals might be golf balls, triangles, or all kinds of creative objects.

    You might come up with creative colored flags to make your Lean Office Work Flow Cycle visible.

    You might use colored lights for more than just jidoka andons.

cartoon artist

Assuming that you are inventing a visual control chart...

Use everything you know and learn about familiar Microsoft Excel

and everything you know about how to personalize any Systems2win template

Go for it...

Create your own visual controls for any activity of any kind

Just make sure that any custom visual control that you invent meets the

Fundamental Requirements

of a Visual Control

  1. Compares expected vs. actual results

    Because that's the primary purpose of a visual management system:

    To reveal abnormalities, so they can be corrected quickly.

  2. Is visual

    Not buried in a computer.

    Problems are highlighted using graphics, colors, and creative ways to be intuitive and visual

  3. Is near the place where the work is done

    So that the people doing (and supervising) the work can use the real-time feedback.

  4. Is updated frequently

    Frequently enough to actually make real-time corrections. Not just post-mortems.

  5. Has notes explaining reasons for every miss

    For post-mortems — that lead to measurable improvements.

  6. Is accompanied by a Lean Management System

    That empowers leaders to actually do something about revealed problems — quickly.

Summary Recap

Visual Management Boards

Constantly reinforce focus on the process ...

using intuitive graphics and/or colors ...

that can be quickly understood by a newcomer passing by

What is most important about any visual controls, (that you copy or invent),

is that you, (the leader at any level)...

Understand the reason for having a visual management system

"By insisting through your standard work that the visuals are maintained and current, visuals constantly reinforce the focus on process.

This focus makes it easier to see the contrast between expected and actual process performance.

By doing this, visuals allow you to identify opportunities for improvement."

~ David Mann — Creating a Lean Culture


Do something

about problems revealed by visual controls

The primary purpose of any visual management system

is to quickly and visibly reveal process abnormalities

Any abnormality should prompt the following 3 questions

  1. Did this happen because no standard work exists?
  2. Did this happen because the standard is incorrect or incomplete?
  3. Did this happen because someone didn't correctly follow the standard work?

When measures are too green

If any measure is green more than 80% of the time, then consider lowering the water
(to reveal more stumps and alligators hidden beneath the surface of a too-easy standard)

Pitch Log Monthly Trends

Lower the inventory, shorten the time, reduce setup times, cross train people...

Do something to raise the standard — to continuously improve
to the next level of higher performance toward lean ideals

The only way to solve a problem is to first expose it.

If the primary purpose of visual control is to reveal problems...

then the assumption is that you lean leadership team will actually

Pareto Chart

Cartoon - lean flow

Do something about the problems that get revealed

If your lean leaders don't actually solve problems as they surface,

then people will quickly lose interest, and wonder why they're doing all this
extra busy work to identify even more problems that management ignores.


Every lean tool needs
a corresponding
Lean Coaching System

If it is to succeed,

every lean production system must be implemented with a corresponding lean management system

and the most obvious elements
of your lean management systems
are your visual controls

testimonial quote


Visual Management Board

The most common element of a visual management system is a Team Board

Three Types
of Visual Management Boards

1) Team Accountability Board

Team Accountability Board example

Use your SQDC template for highly visual, motivating headers for each column of your Team Accountability Board

As suggested in your Leader Standard Work template, (LSW.xlsx)

each Team, Supervisor, and Value Stream should have its own bulletin board located very near the place where the actual work is done.

This Team Accountability Board displays the team's most important visual information, and also serves as the agenda and meeting location for the team's stand up meetings.

The format and contents of each team's Huddle Board can vary greatly.

Common elements often include:

Balance between
Computer and Sticky Note Tracking Systems

We at Systems2win are more computer-oriented than most, but we really like the sticky note based Accountability Board tracking systems for both Task Assignments and Suggestions as described in Chapter 5 of David Mann's book, Creating a Lean Culture.

We like them for their simplicity, accessibility, visuality, and the "fingerprint" factor of keeping the task or suggestion in the person's own words and hand writing.

Many teams, however, like to also publish printed copies of project status reports on their Team Accountability board — usually sliding the latest printed report into a transparent document-holder sleeve.

You can purchase a wide variety of transparent document holder sleeves from


To Do List

Gantt Summary

Value Stream Plan

The Team To Do List and Excel Gantt Chart and Value Stream Plan templates can be a powerful supplement to a Team Accountability Board, by providing easy, field-proven ways for the Team Leader to:

  1. Have well-organized 'parking lot' systems

    to store (and later actually come back to) suggestions and tasks that are not high enough priority to be front and center on the sticky note Accountability Board — which should remain uncluttered — with only high priority tasks and suggestions that are actually being considered or implemented now

  2. Organize longer-term plans for more complex multi-phased projects

    providing field-proven structures for breaking complex projects into bite-sized Work Breakdown Structures — which the leader can then release in the form of a visible sticky note at the precise moment that the team needs to do something about it

  3. Archive completed tasks

    We agree that it is good motivation to leave completed sticky notes on the Accountability Board for a period of time — so that the team feels the satisfaction that comes from seeing all of those green round stickers — but at some point, the board will need to be cleared to make room for the even greater accomplishments that just keep coming.

2) Process Observation Point

A Team Accountability Board often doubles as a 'Process Observation Point' or 'Visual Observation Station':

A designated place to easily observe the process.

Although a Process Observation Point might also have visual controls for quality, reliability, scrap, cost, pace, or any other Key Performance Indicators...

the most essential element that should be front and center in any Process Observation Point is a visual control that instantly indicates how well your product is flowing through that work area.

Acid test for Lean Flow

Invite someone unfamiliar with the work area to stand at the clearly-marked Process Observation Point,

ideally with no further instruction, but perhaps with a brief explanation for:

1) how to read your at-a-glance visual control chart that makes heijunka flow visible for this process

2) how often it is updated — which usually coincides with your Pitch Pulse Cycle

(which is measured in hours; not days)

and then ask...

Is this process flowing as expected?

The answer should be either yes or no... red or green... no yellow.

Learn more about why this is the ultimate acid test for your entire lean transformation


3) Lean Storyboard for Visual Management

aka PDCA Storyboard, Improvement Kata Storyboard, Learner's Storyboard

As popularized in the book The Toyota Kata, by Mike Rother,

a Learner's Storyboard is a special type of Team Accountability board

to facilitate and guide interaction between Learner and Coach,
and to visually tell the story of the progress of a rapidly-changing PDCA project.

Lean Learner's Storyboard

Focus Process


Strategic Challenge

<Brief, compelling vision statement that almost never changes>

See guidelines for how to phrase your Strategic Challenge

Target Condition

Achieve by: <date>

<Brief description
that usually only changes
when one Target is achieved,
and the Next Target is chosen>

See online training
for Next Goal Setting

Value Stream Map
Process Analysis

Current Condition

See online training
for Process Analysis

Cycle Time Observations
Block Diagram
Machine Balance template

PDCA Cycles Record

See online training
for PDCA template

PDCA template

Obstacles Parking Lot

Unprioritized list of things that you
might need to address in future PDCA Cycles.

(You focus on only one obstacle at a time)

Sample Lean Storyboard example — in the format suggested for Toyota Kata Coaching

(publish on a large bulletin board)

Your PDCA Coaching template provides a standard format

that can be used throughout your organization

If you have physical space for 2 separate storyboards near the same process,

then you might decide to follow the Learner's Storyboard approach exactly as taught in The Toyota Kata, using the PDCA template only in the section of the Learner's Storyboard for PDCA tracking.


Navigating unknown territory?

Use PDCA Coaching

If you use the Systems2win PDCA Coaching template, however,

it does already incorporate every element of the Improvement Kata Storyboard,

so some Coaches might find it sufficiently visual, (and easier) to simply publish that normal-sized working document in a transparent sleeve on your (already-existing) Team Accountability Board (described in the section above).

Perhaps a single sleeve to hold the stapled multi-page PDCA Coaching document, or perhaps multiple sleeves to show each page.

Perhaps supplement the (abbreviated) Current Condition section with a more detailed Process Analysis document.

Other Coaches might want to make things even more visual

by supplementing the report with some personalized format for some large-print or graphic progress summary on their own personalized Team Accountability Board.

The point is that there's not just one "right" way to communicate your Lean Storyboard.

The important thing is to incorporate all of the essential elements —

and make it visual.

"Eventually your organizationʼs storyboard design may evolve to suit your environment and culture. But try to keep a standard storyboard format across your organization, so coaching and communication are easier.

Having a common format for the Learnerʼs storyboard makes it easier for the Coach to go from one Learner to the next."

Mike Rother ~ Author of The Toyota Kata


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Suggested Reading and Resources for

Visual Controls

Visual management tools

with lean management templates, kaizen tools, project management tools, load leveling templates, strategic planning tools, and A3 Problem Solving tools


to empower every team member to improve every process






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