Visual Management is a management tool that has increased in popularity over the last few years and is now very much seen as a way of improving performance in any business, not just manufacturing (from where it originates), but increasingly in service organizations amongst others. But what is ‘visual management’ and how does it help improve performance?

Well visual management is not about the management of a company being seen and therefore a visual presence. It is also not about installing CCTV cameras, so that management can keep an eye on the workforce.

No, visual management is about ensuring that the workplace has sufficient visual information, so that all staff can clearly see and understand workplace priorities. Visual information is also required to communicate to staff whether the performance goals that have been set are being met and whether the workflow objectives are up to date.

All these points can be easily and effectively communicated using visual information.

Different Types Of Visual Information

Signage is very important in visual management because it is a key form of visual information. But if you were thinking of introducing signs throughout the length and breadth of your company, then think again! For signage to be effective it cannot be too cluttered. It has to be able to communicate significant amounts of information, without the overall meaning being lost.

So signs that point, that tell people where they are in the production process etc are all pretty useful.

Charts are also useful tools. Charts should highlight performance targets and objectives and some charts should also communicate actual performance set against the targets.

Production machines can be designed so that they flash a light when something is wrong or a beacon may flash, if performance targets are not met with regard to production.

Floor areas should also be clearly marked so that staff know which is a production part, which is a supply area, rest areas and so on.

All these types of visual information help to communicate to staff and keep them appraised of performance and targets. These are key areas of management and this led to the term ‘visual management’ being developed.

Benefits Of Visual Management

One of the significant improvements that visual management brings is enhanced communication – everyone gets the same data presented in the same way at the same time – a by product of this, and an improvement that businesses often cite, is that it cuts down on the need for meetings. as communication has been improved.

Although this may not seem like a major issue, any company will tell you that the fewer hours lost to meetings, the more time can be devoted to actual productivity, no matter what the nature of the business is.

In addition because staff are all given adequate visual information about work practices and processes, staff cannot claim that they ‘didn’t know’ or weren’t told about a certain work practice. Information is also relayed about performance, so again staff cannot claim that they weren’t told what was going on and this can be important in terms of making sure that all staff are aware and they know that the information has been relayed to them, so they don’t have any excuse for non-compliance.

Finally visual management drives forward constant improvement because staff are able to clearly see when things are not as they should be. This can be with regard to production, to machinery, working practices or even with regard to performance. Equipped with all this information, all staff are then empowered to be able to influence their work environment, which again leads to continuous improvement in all aspects of the business, from the shop floor right up to Boardroom level.

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