Regardless of the setting, says Galsworth, visual tools become the shared language of work. “The visual workplace is about making the truth hold still long enough for us to see it, assess it, make a sound decision, and then take timely action,” she argues. Again, these are not abstract ideals, but operational practices; she speaks of specific tools such as visual displays, production boards, and other commonly understood cues for shared action.
And although Galsworth’s aspirations for the visual workplace may be lofty, they can ultimately apply to any useful approach in this field: “In its fullness, an implementation of the visual workplace will change everything. Everything. In its fullness, it represents the creation of an entirely new set of competencies for people, process, and leadership.
“To tell by looking. To tell everything by looking. To put an end to motion by liberating information that has long been imprisoned in the binders, reports, books, computer files, and data systems of the company — and in the hearts and minds of the workforce — and in the process to liberate the human will.”
Reprint No. 08310
Tom Ehrenfeld is a freelance writer based in Cambridge, Mass. Formerly a writer and editor with Harvard Business Review and Inc. magazine, he is the author of The Startup Garden: How Growing a Business Grows You (McGraw-Hill, 2001).