Visual management is the technique of using visual cues within the workplace to communicate information about the businesses performance and processes. Whilst its common in manufacturing environments it is a technique that can be (and is) applied in a variety of workplaces from offices to service centers.

Visual management refers to utilizing visual tools – these can be in a variety of formats from signs and posters through to production control and performance management boards.

Whilst visual management can offer considerable benefits for those in the workplace the technique does not guarantee success and relies on a well thought through deployment. Unsurprisingly, management involvement can be a key success factor in the success of its roll out.

But, what can the management of an organization do to get visual management off to a great start? Consider these key points:

1/ Get involved and make use of what is deployed

Resistance to any initiative is common, however any project which has the right backing from the outset stands a much greater chance of success. Deployment of performance management boards (showing gaps against objectives) and production control boards can sometimes facilitate resistance by showing the frailties within the process. Following the roll out, get senior stakeholders involved by ensuring they attend some of the production control meetings – explain how the visual management is being used and how it links with the continuous improvement cycle.

2/ Visual management helps improvement plans they are not improvement plans in their own right!

Visual management techniques typically highlight things that are not standard and as such are aids to continuous improvement showing the gaps between output and requirement, however where there are gaps – you’ll still need to drive the improvement activities. Visual cues can facilitate rapid communication of information (e.g you are behind schedule) in a consistent way across the business doing so with data relating to the actual environment with the issue. You will still need however to problem solve (root cause analysis) and instigate improvement activity. Visual management can also act as an excellent method to communicate subsequent improvements through altering trends on performance management boards.

3/ Don’t fire and forget

Visual management requires maintaining – don’t just put up your control boards and signage and forget about them. Nothing can create resistance within the workforce quicker than outdated or inaccurate information. Visual management must be part of a process, agree who will update information/data at what periodicity and stick to it!

4/ Listen to your workforce

Visual management is deployed as a communication method to highlight standards and targets to the workforce. Ensure that as part of the deployment you involve this workforce when defining how production control boards, performance boards or signage will be used within their working environment. Failure to involve the team could see “buy in” minimized.

5/ Focus on what’s important

Consider carefully what you will use Visual Management for. Yes it’s a great technique but be selective – don’t just put up signs and control boards for the sake of it. They should serve a purpose and that purpose should be clear. Consider the key objectives of the work cell – is it covered by the visual management your deploying? Is what is being put up relevant? How will it help with their existing process? Do you have existing problems you are trying to solve?

Summary

Visual management can be a key enabler but it does require some effort up front. As ever, the right stakeholder backing coupled with a careful well thought through deployment will pay dividends.

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