Project management is often about effective communication. Project teams need to be dialed in to the project – the updates, the changes, the day to day reporting on progress…we think of words when we think of communication. Whether spoken or written, we communicate in words – except we also communicate across other media, too. There’s also visual communication, and when it comes to project management, visual project management is crucial.
Visual Project Management – It’s About Clarity
Clarity is the KPI for project teams that no one talks about, possibly because it’s hard to measure. The quality of the work a project team will do is directly dependent on the team’s level of understanding of the project. Team members need to know what to do, and when. That’s obvious. But they also need to know the dependency chains and prioritization of their tasks, too. That requires a good visual! We all know that special mix of frustration and anger the project manager feels when a team member sinks invaluable time on a task that wasn’t important, at the expense of something that was absolutely necessary. The team member wouldn’t do that if they had an accurate mental picture of the project. A good visual of the project can save so much wasted energy and resources.
The thing is, the original planning meeting used a visual representation of the project. That whiteboard sketch was visual, and it worked. Everyone walks out of that meeting thinking how simple and easy it will be – it’s when the whiteboard drawings are converted into a Gantt chart that the confusion starts.
A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words
Most project managers use Gantt charts or similar timeline alternatives. Those project management tools are glorified bar charts of task schedules, though. As visuals go, they’re spectacularly non-communicative. Gantt charts arent readable at a glance. The bigger the project, and more than visual project management is necessary – and the less the timeline provides any kind of clarity to the team at all. Timelines are important, they’re how people “see” the project, and they’re crucial for team clarity. Every online project management app knows this – we take for granted that even task management apps will show you a timeline, even if it doesn’t really work.
There are good options for visual project management available, though. Proggio uses the blueprint approach – the timeline is a “project map,” and it is both a set of instructions and a guide.
Team members can see the project as a whole, and how each step fits into the rest. As the “today” line creeps forward, people can see the landscape shifting and deadlines coming up. Dependencies are clearly marked, and with the workstream structure, the cross-team dependencies are never lost in the noise. There’s an “at a glance” ability to grasp the project, know where things are holding, and how the task being worked on relates to the project as a whole. A picture is truly worth a thousand words.