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
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.
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
What's In Your Space?
Take a moment
and think about your own work space. Does it promote performance improvement?
Are the goals and actual performance shared with the employees in an effective
manner? Is employee performance displayed in a manner that promotes
accountability? Are rewards and recognition information posted? Is the space
bright, cheerful and airy? Is it set up in a way that enhances the workflow?
Does your space inspire employees and visitors? Does it honor your mission and
history? Does it celebrate the good work of your employees? Does it affect the
outside world’s view of your organization so that people view you in a positive
these are a lot of tough questions to consider, but think of the opportunity if
your space is not addressing the issues described above. Imagine if you could
redesign your space using sound organization design, human resources and
performance management principles, along with the fine arts, to accomplish just
that and drive performance.
sound like it is pie in the sky? If so, think again, since it has already been
successfully implemented by a number of organizations. The idea of designing
your workspace so it performs better
is a revolutionary management concept I call Visual Management.
Visual Management in a Nutshell
- Is a system of management that helps create and sustain
competitive advantage for organizations.
- Is a holistic and systemic approach to performance improvement in organizations.
- Uses fine arts concepts to improve organizational performance.
- Translates critical organizational requirements into visual
stimuli that cannot be ignored.
- Uses these visual stimuli to highlight, report, clarify, and
integrate mission, vision, values and culture into an organization's
operating systems and performance requirements.
- Creates an environment that enhances employee commitment to the
success of the organization by ensuring that the work environment and
culture directly support the mission and values of that organization.
- Presents key data and information through use of compelling
sensory messages that reinforce what is important to the organization.
- Addresses performance issues and keeps people focused on the real
mission and goals of the organization.
- Provides a mechanism for continuous improvement through system
alignment, goal clarity, inclusion of people in the process, and improved
communication and information sharing throughout the organization.
The basic idea
here is that you use all of your available space to send a consistent,
whole-brained message that focuses on accomplishing your mission and achieving
your goals. At the same time, it will help you engage and motivate your
making your space a nice place to work in, transform it into an inspiring
environment that honors the mission, celebrates the great work of the
employees, shares information in a strategic manner and helps hold the
employees accountable. When you do this, the space will also help shape the
outside world’s view of your organization and attract great people who will
want to work for you. That is a design choice in the same way that many of
today’s nondescript spaces are.
want to work in this type of environment? I know I have and would like to in
the future. Look for more information about Visual Management in my next article.
More insight from Stewart Liff:
Improving Government Performance – Part Five : Posting Performance Information
Improving Government Performance – Part Four : Writing Employee Performance Standards
Improving Government Performance – Part Three : Employee Metrics
writes on human resources management issues in government for OhMyGov. A
recipient of the President's Council on Management Improvement Award,
he is the author of five books, including the just-released Improving
the Performance of Government Employees. His expertise includes employee
relations, labor relations, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO),
performance management, staffing, training, rewards and recognition,
metrics, systems design and succession planning.