From the posters in school classrooms to the infographics dotted across countless guides, articles, and presentations, making the most of visuals is one of the best ways to enhance learning. When it comes to process improvement and the role of continuous improvement, visuals are just as valuable as they are in a traditional learning setting.
The right pictures can make muddy concepts clear and deepen understanding effortlessly when implemented correctly. We’ve covered why getting visual is so important to continuous improvement below:
Is a picture worth a thousand words?
With many improvement processes relying on verbal conversation, it may come as a surprise that visual learning can be pivotal to improving communication and reducing misunderstanding. Whether you are discussing a new workflow, figuring out the answer to a problem, or trying to streamline existing practices, having a tangible reference can make a significant difference in communicating clearly and effectively.
Visual communication isn’t limited to simple pictures and graphics. Charts, flow maps, photographs, and other kinds of mapping are excellent examples of visual tools that can be useful in continuous improvement. By providing a real-world overview of your thoughts, with none of the nuance that communication requires, it’s far more accessible for everyone to get on the same page with planning. No misunderstandings, confusion, or wires crossed.
Create a physical representation of intangible processes
For many workplaces, processes fall under two categories: tangible, real-world workflows and intangible ones. While a tangible workflow, such as manufacturing a chair from wood to the final product, is already clearly visible, the same can’t be said for the processes you don’t see day today. Visualization provides the key to every part of a workflow, from sourcing materials, getting quotes, and selling the product in addition to the manufacturing of the product itself.
These visual representations of the work you do aren’t just a helpful tool for internal purposes. Suppose you need to explain what you do in plain terms to a stakeholder, client, or interested party. A visual overview is far more digestible than hours of verbal communication would be. As a step-by-step guide, these visual tools can help contextualize the work you do to others and allow you to identify discrepancies and areas for development in-house.
See the bigger picture on real-world workflows
The physical work you put into creating a product or offering a service may be more visible, but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from taking that information and looking at the bigger pictures. It’s easy for functionality to become siloed, leading to narrow perspectives and a lack of insight into how each part of a workflow joins together and works effectively.
Visuals help to bring the focus away from the minute details, allowing you to see the whole picture of your processes from start to finish. If you have plans to introduce new products, amend your workflows, or implement automation, you need the insight to know how to work. Visual charts, spaghetti diagrams, and process maps can allow everyone in the workplace to access the same information, making change far more straightforward as a result.
With the effective and well-managed use of visuals, continuous improvement doesn’t have to be a headache. Using the tools at your disposal to take communication to a broader level makes making those changes and identifying problem areas more effortless than ever before.
By Ellis Bledsoe, Principal Owner ECB Solutions, LLC