Visual Management: Visualize Success

Conner Snodgrass
Implementation Specialist

What Is Visual Management?

Visual management is one of the Lean techniques designed so that any person entering a workplace, even those who are unfamiliar with the detail of the processes, can rapidly see what is going on, understand it and determine what is under control and what is not. Basically, the status of the operation can be evaluated in real time.

Pictures, diagrams and visual representations of processes are the simplest way of getting your message across. Let’s take training a new employee to understand how we organize our file cabinets for example. A photo of the correct organization with other visual cues such as color coding and different symbols is going to be much more effective than a plain text description. Visual Management brings new meaning to the phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Visual management began on the shop floor in factories across the world, but its principles apply equally in many different settings, from offices to grocery stores, and even on the road. Driving is one of the best real-world examples of visual management. In most cases, you would be able to travel across the entire country, using nothing but visual clues from signs and markers along the way. Ask yourself this, knowing the basics of what your company does, could someone walk into your organization and understand the process? Could they visualize how work is flowing through the process? Do we make it easier for employees to excel by building a visual workplace? If you answered ‘no’ to any of the above questions, keep reading.

Why Visual Management?

Visual management helps you:

  • Identify work priorities and progress at a glance
  • Identify the flow of work and what is being done where
  • Identify when something is going wrong or not happening at all
  • Communicate to employees what performance measures are in place
  • Convey the standards of work
  • Provide real time updates to everyone involved in the process
  • Cut down on meetings to discuss work issues

How Do I Implement Visual Management?

Most workplaces already have some visual cues. They may include photos of the product or service, work instructions or signs giving directions. These are often helpful, but sometimes notices blend into the background, lack relevance and are soon ignored. So how do we ensure that we have a relevant and effective approach to visual management?

Visual Management Techniques

Here are a few of the categories in which visual management can be applied:

Signs

  • Marked floor areas
  • Shadow boards to visibly store items frequently needed
  • Identified equipment & locations

Process documentation

  • Procedures, which can be in the form of a Visual Method Sheet or Quick Reference Guide (one-page, visual process explanations)
  • Skill & training matrixes to indicate competencies across employees

Quality charts

  • Performance charts (metrics based on KPI’s)
  • Org Status
  • Visual safety management

The Benefits of Visual Management

Companies who implement visual management have noticed several tangible benefits. Employees report having better communication and teamwork due to sharing a highly visible and publicized goal. This leads to greater employee participation and motivation. Mistake proofing related to visual management results in more productive work with less defects and quicker decision making, among others. All these benefits culminate to improve one of if not the most important metric, which is customer satisfaction. In the next installment of Visual Management, we will detail the simple guidelines for creating your very own set of visual management tools.