An Introduction to the (VIS) Visual Board Process

On major projects, dealing with issues is very often a reactionary process, with meetings being called as frequently as problems arise. The danger of this approach is that the flurry of activity can create a false sense of resolution in which decisions have been made and actions agreed, but without the necessary follow up or accountability to ensure that they are actually realised. The inherent risk is that while leadership teams are busy solving the immediate issues, the root causes are not being addressed.

The VIS Board Process is a tool which has emerged out of Lean philosophy, designed to map out a project in its entirety and offer a level of transparency such that issues, causes and solutions are immediately visible to all.


What are the benefits of Visual Management?

  • Accurate, up to date status and metrics at a glance
  • Ability to detect abnormal operating conditions quickly
  • Highlighting gaps, risk areas and potential cracks needing attention
  • Completion of tasks quickly using a standardised approach
  • Promoting on-the-spot resolution and decision making
  • Creating a culture of continuous improvement
  • Promoting accountability and open dialogue
  • Visibility across all levels of management


How does Visual Management work?

It comprises a system of tiered meetings that are based around specifically formatted whiteboard displays called VIS boards. These meetings range from daily updates within a specific area to a weekly review of all areas with the CEO. From the lowest level to the highest, all boards show:

  • What: critical issues, key metrics and KPIs
  • Where: performance against targets, current status
  • Who: person responsible for resolving the issue
  • When: strategic timing of requirements
  • How: action plan and methodology

By referring to these metrics and using actuals rather than estimates, analysis and reporting can be drawn from a single source of truth. Visual aids help employees grasp complex requirements and complete tasks more quickly using a standardised approach by providing instructions, directions and reminders to action owners.


What difference does Visual Management make to performance?

By using the VIS Board Process and incorporating it into other process improvements in areas such as planning, design turnaround times and review processes, output can increase 100+% and improvements will seldom be less than 20-30%.  It is important to use meaningful, specific metrics when gauging success as these will significantly affect the level of accountability and results within project teams.

In addition, one of the most significant benefits of the system, especially when applied within the stringent time-frames and milestones inherent to all major projects, is the immediate yet meaningful resolution of key issues. Meetings are solutions-focused and driven by up-to-date information, so it is easy for a team to see exactly what the problem is and therefore easier for them to find a solution. This is particularly beneficial to lower level staff that may be relying on a quick decision in order to move forward with their work.


What difference does Visual Management make to the workplace?

It is a powerful tool for developing project culture as it increases productivity and offers ownership and involvement to everyone who contributes to the success and failure of the project. As the process evolves and participants become comfortable with the expectations and structures in place, they also become reliable sources of information and beacons for others to gain knowledge from.

In addition, the VIS Board Process provides management and leadership with a frank appraisal of the challenges faced by their workforce, promoting an open and honest operating environment which relieves pressure and contributes to the wellness of the team.


Is Visual Management for you?

The VIS Board Process is adaptable to any workplace and offers enormous value to any business or project that is intrepid enough to openly tackle its own weaknesses and embrace innovation and change.


Sources: Jana Michaels and Hunter Dean, Systemix Consultants