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A visual and rhetorical perspective on management control systems

Carina Söderlund (School of Innovation, Information Design Research Group, Mälardalen University, Design and Engineering, Eskilstuna, Sweden)
Magnus Hansson (School of Business, Centre for Empirical Research on Organisational Control (CEROC), Örebro Universitet, Örebro, Sweden)

International Journal of Lean Six Sigma

ISSN: 2040-4166

Article publication date: 4 January 2021

Issue publication date: 16 July 2021




The purpose of this paper is to explore the role and function of visuals, visual communication and information design as they relate to management control systems and visual management (VM) in lean-inspired organisations. This paper helps expand knowledge on how visual and design studies can contribute to research on VM as part of a management control system.


A study is outlined, which was conducted at a multinational manufacturing company to investigate employees’ perceptions and use of visual devices on the shop floor, including their related reactions and behaviour. The study is delimited to operation management, lean manufacturing and lean boards (i.e. daily management boards and performance measurement boards).


The findings point out the persuasive purpose of lean boards, as well as the metaphoric and persuasive functions of the visuals and information design in management control systems.


Visual research and design research are rare within studies of management control systems. There is a need to perform research that takes into account the role and function of visual communication and information design in VM. The proposed areas for future research can provide design principles, as well as insights into the complexity of visual communication and information design in VM and management control studies.



This research was performed thanks to the efforts made in the research project Vis´man (Visual and Spatial Communication and Management, from users’ perspective), funded by the Knowledge Foundation. The authors also wish to express their gratitude to Associate Professor Koteshwar Chirumalla for his participation during the data collection.


Söderlund, C. and Hansson, M. (2021), "A visual and rhetorical perspective on management control systems", International Journal of Lean Six Sigma, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 536-552.



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