Visual communication is central to Minset’s work for a reason – it’s a powerful lever for improving safety, efficiency, engagement and more. Commonly referred to as visual management, it’s about using instinctive visual cues to communicate key information at a glance. This can span everything from vision to progress to standards to warnings and more…and also provides a fast mechanism for identifying potential problems. Communicating these visually dramatically reduces the need for people to interpret meaning. As a result, whether someone is familiar with a workplace or not, they can instantly see the current state of work, navigate their way around an area, track how a team is performing and so on. Information is understood faster…and is retained more effectively – but more on that soon.

Where is it useful?

Visual management is fundamental to Lean, but it’s nothing new. We started hearing about it in the 70s thanks to Toyota’s famous Toyota Production System, but it dates back to 19th century industrialisation, and even further back to the Egyptian Royal Cubit (which introduced standard measurements). The smarts are in its simplicity and standardisation yet, while it has been around for centuries, we still find many project sites are not close to leveraging its benefits.

Visual management can be applied to a wide range of contexts. We generally focus on three:

  • Information centres are strong tools for displaying a dashboard of priorities and progress to keep teams moving in the same, right direction
  • Physical workspaces are like the canvas that influences the quality of work delivered and offer huge gains when organised with visual cues in mind
  • Individual activities can be accelerated in efficiency and compliance when they are set out to support repeatable excellence

Why is it useful?

There’s definitely a speed element to visual management. The ability to convey critical insight at a glance means people can move ahead with their work faster. Simple really. However, it has value well beyond direct task efficiency. Here are some benefits:

  • Performance – the work actually happens because you’re putting the score up for everyone to see, alongside improvements in areas such as productivity and safety.
  • Capability – it supports a workforce of proactive ‘visual thinkers’ and a workplace that ‘speaks’ because physical environments come alive with visual management telling the story.
  • Effectiveness – it connects and aligns people with vision, values, goals and culture at the highest levels, right through to processes and practices at tactical levels.
  • Problem solving– armed with better, more relevant information, team members can solve problems more efficiently, flowing into time savings, waste elimination and quality gains.
  • Engagement – teams managed via visually-driven communication are far more engaged than those who aren’t.
  • Empowerment – it provides teams with the information they need to be active contributors to an ever-improving workplace and ensures everyone knows the team’s direction, what’s important and what they can do to make a difference.
  • Communication – it is excellent for cross-cultural teams by cutting through language barriers and rapidly supporting shared understanding of key concepts and standards.

Key principles to get started

  • Avoid going solo– a key factor in visual management is standardisation. If one team takes the lead on implementing visual management, other areas should follow suit. This helps to improve their processes but, more importantly, supports resource flexibility as personnel can more easily transition to other areas and quickly familiarise with priorities and practices there.
  • Involve your teams – workgroups need to be engaged so they can understand the concept, benefits and processes for visual management to be sustainable…rather than new processes ‘showing up’ at the next shift with no cultural change to support it.
  • Assign a champion – we continually see the value in having a dedicated champion to support ongoing implementation and maintenance, with full support from leaders.

There are several principles and processes to consider when designing and implementing visual management – and that’s certainly where Minset is here to help. However, irrespective of external support, we encourage project leaders to even just walk the floor to see what their work areas are ‘saying’ and whether they are aiding or holding back team performance. Visual management is a powerful area of opportunity that remains untapped for many.