Visual management is a technique for using visual cues (signs, posters, display boards etc) to communicate information about an organizations processes and performance.

How does it aide communication

Visual management as a technique is often used to highlight things that are not standard i.e. abnormal results or performance and in so doing creating a reaction and a drive to compliance.

One of my favourite real world examples of this is the ambulance – consider

“An ambulance races down the road with its hazard lights flashing” – the lights flashing indicate that there is an abnormal or non standard process – its an emergency in so doing the flashing lights and siren indicate to drivers to pull over and get out of the way (a condition) when the ambulance has passed standard process can be reverted to and the drivers get back on their way.

This is a great real world example of visual management in action. A visual cue highlights something that is non standard and prompts a reaction. Minimal training is required to understand what is happening and the visual cue is easy to understand and comply with.

Factory or the office

Sure, visual management is common in factories. But to suggest that it can only be applied in factories is a misnomer – visual management is everywhere and we see it throughout our daily lives (whether we notice or not!). Visual management as a business technique can be readily applied in factories, offices and service center environments.

Examples of visual management used in offices

Lets take a look at examples of visual management when applied in an office environment:

1/ Performance boards

Performance boards are a popular tool to display and communicate performance against objectives. Typically these will take a company objective e.g. Sales targets, plot them against actual results and then display them. Note this example shows the standard expected (the target) and the abnormal result (actual) the gap is then the improvement required.

In the example of a call centre you might expect to answer customer queries within a specific timescale or to answer telephone calls within so many rings. Digital display boards are popular within call centres and often display this target information and actual performance within the work area – allowing real time views of the standard and the result.

2/ Signage

Signage is everywhere in our business lives – popular office signage includes

• Company mission statement – what is the company striving to do
• Performance targets – charts and displays to show objectives
• Health and safety –
• Departmental signs – which function works here
• Refuse and recycling – what can be recycled and what can be trashed in what storage container

3/ Production control boards

Production control boards are not just for the factory. While office processes are somewhat different – many tasks do lend themselves to production control boards where output can be measured against a schedule and the production control board is used as a visual tool to display progress and record issues.

4/ 5s

5s is commonly incorporated with Visual management utilizing visual cues (often photographs of the standard/preferred layout/condition) being utilized. This is often combined with training signs that display the 5s criteria and process. Visual management techniques might include using variants on shadow boards to highlight placement of equipment, using photographs to emphasise standard layouts, or labels to indicate equipment and its intended location.

5/ Whereabouts boards

Whereabouts boards indicate the location of key departmental personnel during the period being monitored (often during the week). Such displays are usually on an erasable board and are designed in a matrix with the day of the week running across the top and personnel being tracked on the left hand side. They offer a swift indication of the location of staff.

Summary

There are a multitude of opportunities to deploy visual management techniques in any business environment not just offices. The popular belief that this tool is best utilized in factories only is false – providing the deployment is well thought through and you have a clear objective that visual management techniques can help you solve then go for it!

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