Visual Management

Visual Management is widely used by companies to communicate their organisational goals and strategy, and as an effective communications tool for those striving for Operational Excellence.

To evaluate the effectiveness of a Visual Management strategy at a Value Stream level we need to ask the following questions:

  1. Is it EMPOWERING the staff operating in the Value Stream?
  2. Is the strategy helping the staff operating in the Value Stream to make TIMELY decisions?
  3. Do the Value Stream workers feel they contribute to the OWNERSHIP of the information being produced?
  4. Is the information that is presented on the charts and boards USEFUL, USABLE and is it being USED?

Visual Management Strategy: Manual

Many Visual Management systems are manual. What is the rationale behind this? Conversations with our clients reveal the following reasons for relying on manual Visual Management:

  1. It is easy to put in place
  2. It appears relatively inexpensive
  3. The updating of the data, although manual, gives the Value Stream workers a real sense of it being theirs
  4. Provides an opportunity to communicate with fellow workers such as shift change over etc.

Visual Management Systems can be made up of several elements, including KPIs (Hourly Counts, Yield, Downtime etc.), Issue Trackers, Value Stream Project Status Boards, Problem Solving Boards to name a few.

Evaluating the Manual Visual Management Strategy

While the reasons for reliance on a manual Visual Management Strategy are valid we must remember that the key Operations function is to produce the product in a consistent manner, according to product specifications and in adherence to the production schedule.

The information that changes most frequently will often have the biggest impact on timely decision making.

Manually collecting data relating to KPI’s is often achieved by hand writing a count from the back of a machine on the hour. This count is then transcribing it to a whiteboard, or into a spreadsheet to be printed out later and placed on the Visual Management Board.

There are a number of issues that often arise when manually collecting KPI data:

1. Will the data be accurate?

2. Will staff believe the figures, or will they spend time filling in the gaps or challenging the accuracy instead of spending time acting on “alerts” or “indicators”?

3. Will the data be open to interpretation or will there be a “standard method of communication” which is simple and understood by everyone from Value Stream Associate right up to VA Manager and Operations Director?

Is this process of manually collecting data, collating it, transforming it and communicating it a Value Add activity? Can improvements be made to this approach? Can it be Leaned? Can technology play a role ?

Staff who collect the data and do this work manually may get a great sense of ownership and satisfaction from doing it – but what is the opportunity cost here? What other Value Add and
transformational activities could these key people be doing – if they had accurate actionable information at their fingertips in real-time or near real-time?

Applying Technology to the Visual Management Strategy

This brings us back to the key reasons for implementing a Visual Management Strategy.

  1. We need to highlight abnormal conditions in the Value Stream by using alerts to flag when we are not performing against our targets for each KPI.
  2. We need to address problems immediately.
  3. We need to empower people in their place of work to develop problem solving skills and a culture where everyone becomes a change agent in the pursuit of operational excellence.

At Dataworks we apply innovative technology to Lean principles to improve our client’s business processes and ultimately help them to sustain Operational Excellence.

A sample screen of how we applied technology to Visual Management:


We have revolutionised how Visual Management can be deployed to make it more effective, reliable and more VISUAL. Through the implementation of systems we have taken Visual Management at the Value Stream level and transformed it from a MANUAL to an AUTOMATIC process.


If you would like further information on how our tools and solutions can improve your approach to Structured Problem solving within your organisation please contact us today on 051 878555 or email


At Dataworks we apply technology to enable process improvements and operational excellence. The solutions we can offer are heavily aligned to contemporary Lean management, Six Sigma, and Shingo. We strive to develop innovative solutions that support and enhance our clients overall Lean and Continuous Improvement strategy.