When Tilman walked into my office, he was smiling from ear to ear. He was the head of web design at my digital marketing company, and by his smile, I could tell that something had happened.
Tilman is a designer through and through. He sports a big bushy beard around his boyish smile and his uniform is bright, colorful hoodies. He likes colors, playing games, and stimulating the development of his employees. In his team’s office, you would spot a pink stuffed unicorn next to a popcorn machine. Tilman is the easygoing, supportive, and understanding boss that his young employees adored. He’s not the usual numbers guy and would much rather “manage by emotions” than cold hard data. If they would serve a bowl of positive feelings and colorful pixels for breakfast, Tilman would order it.
That’s why I was so astonished by what he showed me next.
Tilman had built a digital process-overview dashboard for his team. The tool’s interface showed how many web-design projects were in each phase of the process, how the stacks had changed in the last days, and where bottlenecks would occur. It measured throughput, calculated estimated completions, and highlighted delays that shouldn’t have happened.
It was the kind of tool a seasoned plant manager in an industrial production company would much more likely have built, instead of my colorful friend Tilman. With the help of the newly visualized data, Tilman and his team could continuously improve the production line and use data to increase quality, output, and speed.
Pretty good work for Mr. Happy-Pixel and his team! I was deeply impressed by the unexpected development.
In the weeks previous to our smiling encounter, my management team and I had read The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt together. The book vividly tells the story of a newly appointed plant manager dealing with production issues and explains the rather dry topic of “The Theory of Constraints” (TOC) in the form of a novel. Seemingly, the book led Tilman to think like a plant manager, rather than a…