Making the invisible visible

The whiteboard in my office has become a working draft for our IT leadership visual management board. And it’s become a focal point of discussion as I socialize the idea with our IT VPs, directors and canstockphoto26356044managers. I’m encouraged that everyone who gets the walkthrough supports the idea and sees the value in it. They see the potential it has to address some fundamental problems in how we work as a department.

Ownership of the board is shifting to the team. I’m using color coded sticky notes to add ideas and pose questions. I’ve encouraged IT leaders to stop by and put their own sticky notes up as we develop it together.

Some have asked if they should do something similar with their own team. The answer is yes! We need to commit at the leadership level and model behaviors. But to truly be effective, each team should have some kind of visual management and huddle that rolls up to the leadership huddle. I encourage any leaders who are ready to start experimenting in their own area to do so. It doesn’t have to be perfect – it’s fine to experiment.

I will be meeting with my partners on this effort next week to shape it and figure out the next steps. This includes Andy Kinnear, Director Project Management Office and Operational Effectiveness, Bryan McDowell, Information Security Officer, and Jennifer DeFrancesco, Director Change Management and Training. They all have experience with lean and will be important partners and champions on our journey.

We should move from the working draft to our first experiment in a few weeks. We’ve identified a potential wall space large enough for the visual board – it’s near our VP offices and has room around it for huddles.

Here are the initial goals I’ve drafted – I expect we’ll refine them together next week:

  • Reduce cycle time (or as I say “get things unstuck”)
  • Reduce preventable incidents
  • Reduce variation
  • Increase coordination and communication between teams
  • Ensure we deliver on top priorities

The sections of the visual board are taking shape:

  • Top priority initiatives – to track progress and issues that need to be addressed
  • Production environment and major incidents – to track incidents, root causes and steps to prevent reoccurrence
  • People – to celebrate accomplishments
  • Everyday Lean Ideas (ELI) – to provide a central place for staff to suggest improvements
  • Metrics – to track key department wide metrics

The draft visual board has “current state” documents pinned to it as I go through my discovery on existing processes. No need to create something new if we already have it but we may need to refine some processes and make sure that they are consistently followed.

For example, we already have a daily 8:30AM call that all managers and lead staff participate in to review incidents in the last 24 hours, high priority tickets, standard changes and upcoming events. This is a great start to the leadership huddle and visual board that we’ll be rolling out.

Some of my key learnings as an aspiring lean leader that I share with others are:

  • Have a partner — overall program owner and driver.
  • Let go so others can develop and shape it
  • Experiment and don’t get stuck on perfection
  • The whole team has to own it

I will definitely listen to my own advice and that of others as we move forward with our lean efforts.

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, information made visible in the workplace is priceless” according to Michael A. Orzen and Thomas A. Paider, co-authors of the book “The Lean IT Field Guide, A Roadmap for Your Transformation”. This is my latest lean book purchase. I will be studying it and sharing it with my partners on this journey.


10 thoughts on “Making the invisible visible

  1. Sowmya Moorthy on said:


    Excellent idea and a great opportunity to boost employee morale! As DeFord in his HIMSS webinar mentioned, we are so caught up in everyday “what’s next” stuff, Visual board will encourage us to hit a pause button and celebrate our victories and wins!!

    Thanks for championing this effort.


  2. Way to go! You know I’m a via-system maniac, so let me know if I can do anything to help! Out of the mess of pin-ups and white boards will come an on-going stream of great visual boards, DRIVEN BY NEEDS, that can move everybody along faster!

    Oh, and if the whole team isn’t together in the same place, not a problem…I used to shoot an iPhone photo of the via-board before the daily huddle and send it to everyone who “signed up” to my daily viz-board-text. That way, the players that are in another location can still “see” the board, comment, etc.


    Lean into it!


    • Sue Schade on said:

      Drex, thanks for the encouragement and advice. Watch my blog for future updates. Great to have internal champions partnering with me on this.

  3. Karen O'Sickey on said:

    Even though I am far down on the leadership hierarchy, I am excited for this! I hope it sticks. I believe IT can improve on all the initial goals you have drafted.

    • Sue Schade on said:

      Karen, thanks for the feedback and encouragement. As we roll out with IT leadership, will be looking for staff to participate with similar huddles and visual management boards with their own managers and teams.

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