One of the foundations of business improvement strategies is to align business activity against organizational objectives, customer requirement and business strategy. While aligning business processes and systems to deliver against these outputs is one part of the story ensuring that adequate measures exist against these deliverables coupled with communication to the workforce is surely the other.

In many organizations where communication is ineffective, staff on the “shop floor” have no tangible link between activity and organizational objectives – where processes are designed away from the staff that will actually carry them out – effectiveness can be hampered with a lack of pressure targeted towards performance.

Visual management is an improvement tool that utilizes visual aids such as charts, signs and visual queues to focus organizations on targets and objectives. Visual management consolidates messages about company strategy and objectives, providing a consistent message about what should be done and why.

Visual management is often prevalent in manufacturing organizations where targets such as takt rates, output and defects arising are presented to the workforce through visual means. These days this often takes the form of electronic display boards (see the article at mmsonline for examples) This sort of real time performance update directly aligns the shopfloor with operational goals – clearly displaying current performance, and gaps, against what is required for all to see.

While performance measures are more common there are no restrictions as to what visual management can actually display – training records, projects plans, HR information such as sickness rates or holiday plans, company mission statements and strategy – the key to visual management is identifying which measures will be displayed (tied to organizational objectives) and utilizing the most suitable deployment method.

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