“While you are traveling down this road there is a chance that one or more rocks of varying size may fall from the slopes on one or both sides of you.  You should be aware of this before you travel this way so that you are cautious of the particular type of hazard”

Imagine you had to read that on a sign while driving down the road at 110 km / hour… not going to happen, right? …and yet, it is vitally important that you understand this information and make a decision about what to do.

On the other hand, we are all familiar with the following visual reference:


This time, you can understand the meaning, ‘at a glance.’ That’s (of course) because the use of a simple image communicates the information you need to know, quickly – you look and you understand.

MIERUKA = Visualization

The Japanese term mieruka means “visualization” or “Visual Control.” Another way of looking at this is to call it “management by eyes” – and, just like in the example above, the most effective visual control is one that can be understood ‘at a glance.’

In other words, the more visual your information is, the quicker others can understand and make decisions based on that understanding.

Essentially, there are three hings to think about with regard to Mieruka:

1)      ‘Shared Knowledge’ is good.  It is about moving from a workplace where information and knowledge are ‘held’ by certain individuals, (the so-called Tribal Knowledge or Campfire knowledge) to one of a ‘Shared Knowledge’

2)      What is the Current Condition?  If Mieruka means ‘management by eyes’ then the highest level  attainment is to understand the current condition – at a glance’.

3)      A Decision-making tool. Visual management should help you understand what is normal or abnormal and allow you to make a decision quickly on what to do about it.


JakeGive me an ‘M’…

With this in mind, let’s take the Japanese word M-I-E-R-U-K-A and use it to introduce some fundamental guidelines you should be aware of when you attempt to improve the level of Visual management in your office or on your shop floor.

M should stand for “Mark”  – mark out your standards (examples are to put lines marking out where things should go on the floor or on a shelf etc.).

should stand for “Inform” – use clear visual techniques to inform your organization about operating progress and status – but more graphical and less ‘verbose’ (less words, the better!).

E should stand for “Educate” – make sure that you use visual management to educate, teach and reinforce proper behaviours (examples are simple visual S.O.Ps etc.).

R should stand for “Reveal”- use visual management to reveal and to  develop project plans (many Lean organizations use visual boards to show project progress, including where things are possibly slowing down , in order to promote shared understanding and problem-solving.

Ushould stand for “Understand”-  you will need to thoroughly understand your gemba.

K should stand for “Know” – proper visual management should strive to help you ‘know’ where problems are by helping you to bring them to the surface.  “Making problems visible” should be job no. 1.

A should stand for “Act” – so that once you know there is a problem, visual management also prompts you to Act on those problems and to always Act to maintain standards.

What does it spell?  MIERUKA! Or Visualization, as you have of course, you’ve come to learn.


An Invitation

In addition to the fun and fundamental guidelines, don’t forget that one of your most important tools for visual management is your visual management board. The visual board will become the ‘focal point’ where you will gather for daily huddles and hansei (reflection) activities – this is where much of your MIERUKA activities will come to fruition.  A good visual board will encompass all of the most important attributes as explained above; it will help identify problems, inform teams of project progress and instruct and reinforce standards.

Just remember, that the best visual boards are those that create an ‘invitation for discussion’ – in other words, visuals that can provide ‘at a glance’ stimuli for discussion and problem-solving are the best ones to strive for.

Return to Lean Sensei’s Newsletter Q1 2015 Issue