One technique often used in improving the effectiveness of the workplace is Visual management. Visual management works by making the status of the workplace clear and understandable to all by simply viewing the area.

Visual management as a technique can be utilized and deployed in many different ways. However, it does have some requirements to maximize its potential. Visual management helps identify a course of action depending on the result. For example where the result is non-standard i.e. abnormal. For this to be facilitated, organizations (or factory cells) need to be able to identify the current condition for example

• Status against plan
• Quality

Visual management’s dependencies

As stated visual management has a series of dependencies that determine its effectiveness – these include:

• Standardization – the organization needs to be able to determine what is standard/within process in order to communicate effectively what is not acceptable

•Easy to understand. – With minimal training it should be simple to understand what is going on through reading the visual management cues. As part of this placement can often be key.

•Utilization: It needs to be used religiously (which may have a dependency on data/information being updated. If it’s not being used then the organization needs to find out why and what needs to be done to remedy the situation.

• Responses be acted on: It’s alright that the visual management tools highlight non standard outputs or processes but that is just information – the results need to be acted on (and the workforce needs to see this taking place) if visual management tools and techniques are to be taken seriously.

It doesn’t have to be difficult.

Visual management can be a deceptively simple tool to deploy but devilishly complicated to get right. If we think about what visual management we come across on a daily basis the most effective is simple and to the point requiring little training to be understood and acted on – for example consider the following

1. Flashing lights on ambulance
2. Walk/Don’t walk signs on roads
3. Stop signs on intersections
4. This water is hot signs on drinks machines

Consider for these three examples the simplicity behind the visual management technique but also consider the resultant action when meeting these visual cues. And that is the key to effective visual management – you’re telling the workforce something because you want them to do something. Visual management for the sake of it – while has some potential benefits will not deliver to its full potential.

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