Using Visual Management techniques in your project

Visual management is the technique of using visual queues to communicate information within the workplace. The technique is often used within manufacturing organizations. Here they use visual indicators to communicate performance requirements and statuses, business issues and problems together with generic information such as organization goals to the workforce.

Visual management however can extend beyond the confines of a manufacturing plant and can be an extremely useful management aide particularly in the world of project management.

Sharing key project information through Visual Management

For those of us that have worked in large projects, communicating within the confines of a large team can be challenging – all too often there are a variety of work streams and project managers (all with their own targets and issues). Pulling from and pushing information to these groups where information and statuses are shared whilst incorporating project leadership communications on performance and key issues and challenges is not easy.

While the tried and tested methods of falling back on your project plan – issue and risk logs etc as a method of communicating can help (and still represent an integral Project process) they can also be bureaucratic and cumbersome where information and issues need to be pushed out in a rapid and team based approach.

Visual Management works best when it draws our attention to something that doesn’t convey with expectations or the ‘norm’ – it calls us to action or provides us with a status that we can then utilize. Where the projects are of significant size – utilizing a mixture of ‘war room’, KPI’s and visual information can provide an effective and fast way of providing information and facilitating feedback.

The war room

War rooms are simply a space that the project team use to store and display key information on the project – often they are used to display project plans, hold key meetings etc. The term “war room” appears a bit grandiose but in reality they are just a place that a project calls home and that stakeholders can use to see how the project is going.

The need for Visual Management within your project.

Visual management is quite a large discipline and there are a variety of techniques that are associated with it – however in a project environment you can use those techniques that are best suited to what your trying to achieve – here are some examples

Project / Milestone plan Simply by displaying a current version of the project plan (or where it is too detailed a milestone plan) project timelines and schedules become reinforced. By incorporating a RAG (see below) you can quickly zone in on any areas of concern.
RAG RAG stands for Red, Amber, Green and is a traffic light system of displaying the severity of an issue (or often the completeness of a task) for example – Red might be translated as Project stop if this issue doesn’t get resolved or on a plan it might mean behind schedule – using color can rapidly communicate the status of a thing to your work colleagues

Targets and Objectives Display your projects goals and objectives – use posters (including pictures and color) to deliver your message more effectively. Note that these can be both projects targets and targets towards a particular milestone or target (i.e. this week’s key tasks)

KPI’s Present any key KPI’s that are important to your project – this can help convey performance and expectations.
Whereabout boards This is simply a list of key project team members together with contact information and diary status for the week.

It’s a simple tool but you’d be amazed how useful it can be.

Accountability boards This is a technique where you combine project team members / and a diary to record key actions are focus attention on resolution– these are best suited to a regular progress review enabling issues to be captured and diarized for resolution.
Organization Charts Convey to stakeholders and project team your organization and key points of contact.

Branding & ‘report outs’ Using posters to promote your project and provide key information can be a very effective method of getting your message across. The important thing is don’t let this become stale, ensure you regularly refresh your comms.

Performance boards These can be used to display particular elements of the work-breakdown structure – allowing key focus against activity – RAG’s/KPI’s can be used to track performance and feedback into the main project

Summary

Using Visual management within a project environment can offer many benefits

With Visual management, as project managers and project team members we’re often utilizing the technique without realizing it. However by considering it in advance and how it can support and streamline your processes you can obtain the maximum value from the tool.

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