An Introduction to Conventional Visual Management

Visual Management is a visual (sensory) communication strategy that is frequently used to realize Lean Construction goals at the operational level (i.e construction field, design office, facilities etc.). Visual Management emphasizes consciously employing simple yet effective cognitive concepts and artefacts such as color coding, shadowing, the Gestalt Law or simple cards, tokens and boards to attain the operational targets of a production system.

The ultimate aim is to integrate effective information into process elements (i.e. space, plant, tools, gadgets, personnel) to increase their communication ability or in other words, process transparency. For instance, the famous production kanban concept in the lean world is an example of visual controls within the Visual Management strategy. In the kanban system, the rate of production pace to meet internal or external customer demand (takt rate) is controlled on the construction field through the exchange of specific amount of cards or any other controlling artefacts between different production/worker units. Through those kanban cards, not only is the planned takt is maintained in practice but also the amount of work-in-process (WIP) is kept at an optimum to avoid over or underproduction1. The motive of the strategy is to create a workplace environment that can be seen by everyone.

Conventionally, Visual Management employs one or a combination of four types of visual tools2; (i) visual indicators (give only information – e.g. safety signs), (ii) visual signals (grab attention – e.g. andon system), (iii) visual controls (limit and guide human actions – kanban cards for production control, safety control or maintenance) and (iv) visual guarantees (allow only the desired outcome –e.g. poka-yokes). All the four types of tools can also been seen in a daily traffic management context (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: The Use of the Four Visual Tools in Traffic Management

In a lean workplace, many of the four types of visual tools can be observed in action within workplace, maintenance, quality, safety, production, personnel, image, process, change, performance, knowledge and inventory management efforts3 (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Visual Tools in Action in a Lean Workplace

Although there is no concrete Visual Management implementation framework in the literature, the implementation generally starts with the adoption of a workplace visual order with the 5S (a workplace organization methodology). The implementations of visual standards, visual measures, visual controls, and visual guarantees generally build on this workplace order (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: VM Implementation Framework

Visual Management supports process transparency, process discipline, continuous improvement, on-the-job training, management-by-facts, job facilitation, creating a shared ownership through internal/external marketing, simplification of information from the organizational environment and workplace unification4.

Future Posts

Visual Management is a fundamental Lean Production/Construction information visualization strategy that covers different tools and practices such as the A3 concept, obeya rooms, value stream maps, spaghetti diagrams, the 5S, heijunka boards, andon signals, various kanban based visual control implementations, H&R tools, internal marketing efforts, sampling and prototyping, and many IT systems to support the visualization in a work environment. Future posts will explain the tools in more detail.


1. Tezel, A., Koskela, L.,Tzortzopoulos, P.,Formoso, C. and Alves, T.(2015) Visual Management in Brazilian Construction Companies: Taxonomy and Guidelines for Implementation. Journal of Management in Engineering, 10.1061/(ASCE)ME.1943-5479.0000354, 05015001.

2. Galsworth, G. D. (1997) Visual Systems: Harnessing the Power of Visual Workplace, AMACOM, New York, USA.

3. Suzaki, K. (1993) The New Shop Floor Management: Empowering People for Continuous Improvement, The Free Press, New York, USA.

4. Tezel, B. A., Koskela L. J. and Tzortzopoulos, P. (2009) The Functions of Visual Management. 6th International Research Symposium, Salford, UK.

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