While visual management originated in manufacturing organizations these days its use is widespread. Visual management can be seen in all sorts of environments from offices, call centers, hospitals and other office environments.

The adage that visual management was only applicable to factories can no longer be applied. Whilst deploying the technique in an office environment can represent more of a challenge it can still be an effective tool in communicating performance and information to the workforce. The downside of it being in an office environment is that few organizations design office processes with factory best practice in mind. Visual management therefore often gets added at a later date requiring a robust understanding of the departmental processes and how the technique can be applied.

The methods used to display information in an office environment can be similar if not the same as used in a factory. Utilizing color, diagrams, text and charts, information can be presented in an easily digestible format across the organization. Whilst in a manufacturing scenario, visual management is often used to highlight an issue and prevent it from going to the next operation, in an office environment this isn’t always possible and the benefits of visual management are often more related to presenting performance and relating them to objectives than other uses.

When it comes to the benefits of using visual management these are usually the same as the benefits of using the visual management in a factory setting.

These include;

• Communicating process
• Communicating performance against targets
• Communicating standards
• Communicating health and safety and legislative issues

Those that still doubts that visual management can be effective in an office environment should look no further than the typical call centre. Call centers are significant users of visual management. Call centers commonly used visual management to present targets, performance, key issues, in a way that can be consumed by a significant number of employees at any given time.

The benefits for the call centre are obvious. Everyone has access to the information at the same time in the same way ensuring that everybody is aware of current performance and key issues.

The important thing to remember about offices is they share a common goal with factories they are there to output a process and create products. Office processes are often repetitive and high volume and in reality there is not many differences between manufacturing and office environments apart from the end product.

Office environments can often be confusing at the best of times. Work can be unstructured and completed in a variety of ways by different workers with no standard practices. Offices do not have a production schedule and unlike manufacturing plants there is usually no quantity of output being driven on a particular day.

Unstructured processes present the biggest challenge. These sorts of processes typically involve highly trained and skilled staff carrying out a complex activity without following a particular narrative. It is, however, a misnomer to think that these processes cannot be improved through utilizing visual cues.

Summary

Visual management is a critical component of any lean organization. As in any scenario resistance to change is not uncommon. Many issues arise from viewing information as power. There may be security fears or resistance to standardized work practices and the inflexibility this is associated with. Management in itself needs to buy into the practice but deployed properly visual management can result in significant reward.

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