The Visual System of Work Defined

The Visual System of Work is a method for improving business operation.

The Visual System of Work uses simple visualization as a vehicle for understanding complex business structure. The simple act of seeing through graphic representations how a business works, naturally leads employees to more personal involvement and better communication, cooperation and coordination of effort. Simply seeing how a business works helps employees become more involved. Vision leads to inspiration, generating better communication, cooperation, and coordination of effort.

The 12 VSOW Tools

Within the Visual System of Work there are twelve (12) tools that guide the process of improving a business. The 12 tools help employees see interconnections within the business and provide the information they need to work together to help the business get better, make money and generate cash.  The tools assist in documenting, analyzing, evaluating, and reviewing on-going business performance. By combining the tools, small business owners and employees are able to discover the best way to run their business. The 12 tools are listed below, and will be discussed in more detail in later modules:

Building Trust – Phase 1

1. Functional Organization Chart
2. Strategic Planning Sheet
3. Break-even Point / Financial Plan
4. 3-Questions
5. Project Planning Sheet (5W-2H)

Driving Focus and Transparency – Phase 2

6. Whole System Map (Macro Flow)
7. Scoreboard
8. Procedures (Process Maps)/ Work Instructions
9. Task Matrix
10. Time Matrix
11. Meeting Matrix/ Meeting Agendas
12. TIP (Throughput Improvement Plan)

Strategic Planning (Phase 1) helps to build trust by sharing information and reaching consensus on the business structure, strategy, and performance metrics (What it means to win). The 3 Questions help to align the business on what’s most important for the business to make money and generate cash. The Planning Sheet documents a plan on how to achieve those objectives.

Strategic Execution (Phase 2) drives the business with focus and transparency. The first objective is to stabilize (control) the business by alignment, transparency, and accountability. The second objective is to sustain the business by employee involvement, having daily huddles, establishing a meeting rhythm, generating quarterly reviews, then grow the business through on-going continuous improvement projects (Throughput Improvement Plan).

The Visual System of Work and the Individual Employee

There are many aspects of the Visual System of Work that have to do with enabling employees within a business to feel a part, to be empowered with information to make keener observations and make better decisions and to be engaged in improvement.

Here, David Lord talks about the background behind the Visual System of Work in this short talk:

Visual Management helps employees understand their influence on the organization’s overall performance by seeing the business in its entirety. It motivates everybody to improve by clarifying key performance objectives and builds participation through shared information.

Visual management enhances communication and accelerates project completion by representing situational relationships of data in a meaningful and informative story. People are enthusiastic about improving the enterprise when they can actually see how their individual actions affect the company’s performance.

Businesses develop trust and productive relationships within their organizations by listening to the concerns and issues of employees and telling them the truth. When workers engage in honest, open dialog, they feel committed to their jobs,
enthused about the future, and motivated to come up with ideas to enhance the organization.

Creating real change within an organization requires collective effort, where everyone speaks a common language and is committed to improving the way work is done. Businesses arrive at answers when information is communicated freely and
shared decision-making is the norm. Communication, cooperation, and coordination of effort are needed for a business to grow and stay competitive in the marketplace.