Visual Project Management

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Having problems with project delivery? You’re not alone. In fact, a staggering 39% of IT projects with budgets over $10 million fail. They’re not just delayed, overrun or overdue… they fail. Capital and other projects fare no better. Research on project management practices and outcomes show that at least 30% of all projects are late.

The Number One Reason for Project Failure

The reason project teams struggle to deliver is not because they don’t want to, but because of the structure they live in. They don’t communicate well, don’t share the same work priorities or have the same goals, and can’t see what needs to be done. Simply put, they can’t manage what they can’t see.

When a project manager can’t see the actions of the team, it’s likely that the team members themselves don’t know where they’re going, where they are in the project, or what they need to get their share done. Team members don’t know where they stand in relation to the project’s ultimate completion, and so they are unable to act in ways that accelerate the project’s progress.

The lack of visibility affects the team’s ability to work as one cohesive unit. There’s no way for the team members to leverage their strengths, and the synergy of the team is limited. The first and main obstacle to improving visibility is the sheer volume of work. Too much work or too many tasks in the system obscures the playing field. There is simply so much of it that the team cannot sort through it all to identify the most important tasks to concentrate on.

The primary problem in project execution is that the teams simply do not have situational visibility. They can't see where they are and they can't see clearly what to do. They do not have a useable map to guide them.

Visualize Your Projects

Visual information is used for analysis and decision making everywhere. Football teams use Xs and Os, we read traffic maps with red routes all the time. Present information visually – so people can quickly communicate and grasp the situation. A quick view of status eliminates the debate about where things really are, so you can move into action. In order to create a mutual awareness and alignment of action, make what is meaningful visible. Visible information is the shortest route from understanding to action. Brain research shows that we decipher visual information simultaneously, whereas language and text are processed in a sequential manner.1 Having a visual aid significantly reduces the time needed to understand information, thereby promoting rapid understanding of any situation.

You need a map.

Increasing visibility within a team highlights critical information in ways that simply can’t be ignored. There are many ways to create tangible visibility for the team; the solution our firm uses is the ViewPoint Visual Portfolio Board (VPB), which serves as the clear map that teams need. After a Colorado (US) software company instituted a VPB, an executive responded, “As simple as [a VPB] sounds, to actually see that come to life is a real clarifying moment for the entire organization. Everyone knows exactly where we are every day.”

Having the right visual of your project and/or your portfolio exposes process problems to the team in an objective, non-threatening way. A clear visual also prevents information overload. As the project continues, a visual like the VPB provides tangible feedback that everyone can see and understand. The VPB removes the largest obstacle to collaboration: agreement on the situation. If there’s a bottleneck or a gap on the board, team members don’t waste time arguing about it because it’s obvious there’s a problem. They know where they are. Rather than working toward an unclear goal, members of a team can monitor the project and take the right action to move it closer to completion.

Learn more about ViewPoint Visual Project Management. Watch the videos, read the whitepapers. Visit Mark Woeppel’s Blog,