Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to holistically discuss, explore and synthesise the key literature on visual management (VM), an important, yet highly fragmented subject that is frequently referred in lean production accounts. Design/methodology/approach - An extensive literature review was conducted to classify the current literature, to explore the different aspects and limitations of the current discussions on the subject, to clarify in what ways VM benefits manifest themselves in a workplace and to identify the future research focus. Findings - VM is an important close-range communication strategy based on cognitively effective information conveyance. This strategy has been frequently discussed in the production management literature. However, the literature is fragmented as to the roles of VM in a production setting; the body of literature lacks integrated focus and cohesion with an abundance of related terminology from scholarly works and consultant books; a practical VM tools taxonomy and a visual workplace implementation framework were presented; there is poor clarity with regards to the functions (benefits) that VM may provide within organisations, nine conceptual VM functions were proposed; a wide array of future research directions related to VM was identified. Originality/value - This paper synthesises the key literature related to VM, providing a conceptual picture of the current knowledge.