two people in hard hats, one observing the work of the other
The three Components of Leader Standard Work Explained
November 29, 2023
a photo of a factory worker with a clipboard and a upgoing graph superimposed
New Zealand’s 68% productivity lag won’t improve by disestablishing the Productivity Commission
December 4, 2023
two people in hard hats, one observing the work of the other
The three Components of Leader Standard Work Explained
November 29, 2023
a photo of a factory worker with a clipboard and a upgoing graph superimposed
New Zealand’s 68% productivity lag won’t improve by disestablishing the Productivity Commission
December 4, 2023
Show all

What is Visual Management in Lean?

A traffic sign using symbols and images to show how many people can cross a bridge

Non-verbal communication

Visual Management (VM) uses images, signs, symbols, and colours to inform and guide people’s behaviour without thinking. It makes it easy to do the right thing and guides people’s attention to where it is needed most. An added benefit is that non-English speakers can follow them as well. Visual management is all about “making it easy to do it right.”

5-meter 3-second

Effective Visual Management applies the ‘5-meter 3-second rule’: everyone should be able to ‘read’ the situation from 5-meter distance in a period of 3 seconds. You can see what immediate action needs to be taken to return the situation to standard or normal. Direct observations of the issues provide opportunities for fast action to return the situation back to normal, thus enabling quick intervention, before issues escalate. This is not only applicable to the people who work in that particular area, but anyone who visits the area from another team or senior management is instantly aware of the performance, the issues the team is facing, and their success. By eliminating the time to assess a situation, we can spend all our time on improving it.

Watch Geerten Lengkeek Explain Visual Management in 44 Seconds 

Some examples

Visual Management is applicable in various settings, including manufacturing, service industries, healthcare, and project management:

  • Business Performance Monitoring Dashboard: A dashboard displaying real-time key performance indicators (KPIs) such as sales figures, customer satisfaction ratings, and production output. Color coding can quickly convey where attention is needed.
  • Visual Work Instructions: The use of diagrams and/or pictures to guide workers through the steps of a process. This reduces language barriers and makes instructions clearer.
  • Andon System in Manufacturing: Production line workers have a visual signal (such as a colored light) at their workstations. If they encounter a problem, they activate the light to signal supervisors or support teams to address the issue.
  • Workplace Organisation: A shadow board with tools immediately shows which ones are missing.
  • Safety: Walkways, signage, and exclusion zones to keep people safe and the operations uninterrupted.
  • Emergency Response: Flashing lights, signage, and marked walkways direct people to do the right thing during an emergency.
  • Project Management: A board divided into columns representing different stages of a project (e.g., To Do, In Progress, Done). Each task is represented by a card that moves across the board as it progresses.
  • Warehouse management: Read here about an example of Visual Management to guide a forklift to the correct bays.

Visual Management aligns with Lean and Continuous Improvement because it is based on the idea that information should be readily available and easily understood by everyone, leading to increased efficiency, better decision-making, and a more responsive organization.

Visual Management is one of the practices of our Productivity WheelTM. Contact us at Productivity People on 0800 pro-people or info@productivitypeople.co.nz if you want to learn more about this.