Visualizing Projects: Start With a Clean Slate

In just a few minutes, everyone will share one common understanding of what needs to be done and who needs to do it.

Let’s get rid of the room.

Let’s get rid of the chairs.

While we’re at it, let’s get rid of meetings – or at least what we traditionally think of as meetings.

We will gather, but here’s what we won’t do any more:
• We won’t point fingers.
• We won’t assign blame.
• We won’t ask “why” things have gone wrong.
• We won’t dwell on the past.

Stand up for the future

We use a hallway because we want people to stand – pretty soon, they’ll be on the move, returning to their work with a clear understanding of what, exactly, they should be working on. We use a whiteboard or a strip of paper because they are flexible: we can tailor our visualization to the exact needs of our project.

What’s your process?

The board is the center of everyone’s attention. So what will they see?

First, you need to look into your process: step by step, what has to be done to complete a project from beginning to end? What are the inflection points for progress, the hand-offs that must be made, the transitions that require decision-making?

While project processes may be complex, for the purposes of efficient execution, you want a summary that distills the process to its most important steps. For one engineering group, it was sufficient to define it in four stages, each of which was represented by a column on its whiteboard:
1. Design
2. Draft
3. Check
4. Approval

More often, the process is more complex. In the figure below, there are ten steps to completion, including Technical Clarification, Job Creation, 3D Concepts, 3D Modeling, Design Freeze Review, Detailed Drawings, etc.

GZ3 (1)

Already eye-opening?

Sounds simple, right? But for many teams, even listing the steps proves illuminating; for it may be the first time anyone has searched out and articulated the project process.

More importantly, for the team that gathers around the board, it may be the first time that they’ve seen beyond their project portions to visualize the entire project process. Notice that we haven’t completed the board – but we’ve already created a context that hadn’t been visible before.

Success Secret #1

In an upcoming step, team members will use “sticky” notes or tags to assign their current work tasks to the appropriate columns. Often, two wonderful things will happen: 1) a column will be blank –sometimes this is appropriate, but sometimes it suggests that that a step in the process is irrelevant and, therefore, can be removed from the board; and 2) team members might have left-over tasks in their hands, indicating that a process column is missing. In fact, one of the first major contributions of visualization is that it often exposes the hidden process steps and work that have previously gone unmanaged.

This is chapter three and four of our newest ebook, Visualizing Projects. Do you want to learn more? Download the full ebook here.

Learn more about Visual Project Management and join the discussion on LinkedIn by joining the Visual Project Management group.

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