Posted on August 19, 2015 · Posted in Kamishibai Board, Leadership, Lean
Kamishibai is another of those Japanese terms that doesn’t translate easily into English.  The concept is simple, but only recently duplicated in the Western World.  Why learn about it?  Because the Kamishibai board is a very powerful visual management tool.
A little history.  Originally Kamishibai were used by Japanese monks as moral storytelling tool.  Their use began around the 12th century.  The tool was comprised of a small wooden theater with a opening in its center.  A paper scroll was exposed, frame by frame, in this center opening, so that only one picture at a time was visible.  While the picture was exposed, the monk told a story.  The combination of picture and words conveyed the moral pith.
What is a Kamishibai Board?  Scroll forward a few centuries and we get a modern use of the tool.  The most simple explanation is that a Kamishibai board is that it is a visual tool used to tell the story of an area’s readiness. 
How does it work?  The board holds a series of pockets in which cards are placed.  Each card has an instruction on it, telling its reader, typically a manager, something they need to inspect.  Well written cards also contain instructions on what “good” looks like.
Finally, the card has colored sides: e.g. red and green.  If the area being inspected passes, the card is replaced in its pocket, green side facing out.  If the area fails, the card is replaced, red side facing out.  
Constant Vigilance  The focus of each card is chosen to examine area weak spots  where constant vigilance is required.
Not every card needs to be used every day.  They can be chosen at random or taken in sequence.  When the manager is finished, the board “tells a story” about the area’s readiness.  Area managers pay attention to the board and correct any deficiencies as quickly as possible.  The board keeps everyone on their toes and ensures constant vigilance.  

The use of Kamishibai boards is just one more way that Lean practitioners maintain focus on the things that are important.