Article on Visual Management

Check out my new article on visual management posted at

Eighteen years ago, I walked into an organization, took at quick look at its space and quickly realized that it had only one sign up anywhere. The sign was on a supervisor’s desk and said, “What part of ‘no’don’t you understand?” Recently, I walked into another organization and scanned their environment. It had a few pictures hung up here and there, but nothing that really moved me or seemed to be relevant to today’s overwhelming challenges.

Neither space had virtually any performance goals or metrics posted. (As I recall, I did see one graph hung up in the more recent organization I visited – however, it was over a year old.) Neither space displayed information about employee performance. Neither space was overly focused on highlighting or honoring its mission. And neither space celebrated the good work of the employees.

In short, it appeared that in both cases, the space was simply set up so the employees could work there, with no real thought given as to how it could impact on organizational performance or inspire anyone.

There is an old saying that “organizations are perfectly designed to get the results they get.” The point of this saying is that performance is greatly influenced by the design choices that organization make and, in both of the cases cited above, the organizations decided to use the space in at best a neutral manner. Interestingly, I don’t think anyone would have said that either organization was a stellar performer.

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