Visual management in continuous improvement

Visual management is a method used to visually communicate information in such a way that it can be interpreted quickly with only a limited amount of training. Visual management is used all around us. Traffic lights, car dashboards, emergency exit indicators, ... are all examples of visual management.

We can use visual management also in our work life to communicate information. In lean six sigma, visual management is used not only to maintain the current situation but also to continuously improve it.

Visual management for maintaining the current situation

in order to maintain the current situation there are two types of information sharing which are used:

  • Letting people following a  standard. for example, Coloured lines on the ground in public buildings show people which way to go. Or arrows indicating which way to go. Or lines at an airport which the airplanes have to follow.
  • warn people that an abnormality has occurred or is about to occur.  for example, A shadow board makes it quickly clear which tools are missing. Or the battery charge indicator on a phone.

Visual management for improving the current situation

When visual management is used to improve the current situation  The shared information lets people know what the current situation is and what the expectations are. This is done by using so-called key performance indicators or KPI's which are visually represented on a graphical chart that includes a target line. The KPIs give a clear view of where improvement is needed. By Displaying this information in the working area we involve the employees in the continuous improvement process.

KPIs are measurements that a business uses to assess, analyze and track the performance of a process or project. In a production environment, KPI's are often linked to the process output, efficiency, and quality. KPI's are often used in combination with a target line. which represents the to be reached goals.  If the target is met, the process is performing like expected.  If not an improvement project has to be started. Once the target is met and sustained over a certain period of time we consider the improvement successful.

for example, the defect rate is a typical KPI that is used to measure the quality produced by a process.

Shapes, icons, and colors are used to create a strong visual signal. When using colors you have to take into account that red-yellow-green has almost everywhere the following meaning:

  • red - warning/target not reached,
  • yellow or orange  - alert/risk on deviation
  • green -  everything ok.

This article was updated on November 30, 2022