The Benefits of Visual Management in Projects

Volker Matz and Rijk Detiger extol the benefits of using physical visual management in complex IT projects and illustrate their thinking with real project examples for design thinking, process optimisation and programme & project management

The  increasing time and cost pressures on complex large programmes and projects, whether they cover routine governance activities, discovery tasks as part of design thinking or process optimisations, means that accurate tracking of progress against contractually agreed milestones, product or scrum backlogs and deliverables becomes ever more challenging. While there are many new sophisticated software applications on the market, there is still a need for simple, visual progress information to provide timely updates to the Board and Steering Committees and most importantly, the programme, project or product development teams. They are part of the key stakeholder group that need to know about key milestones; the interdependencies between work streams; the deliverables; the associated risks and issues, often on an ad hoc basis.

Visual Management (as discussed in SCL’s recent Tech Law Essentials on Programme & Project Management) is one of those key controls and should be a fundamental element of any Tool Suite. Such tools can not only demonstrate progress in an intelligent, user-friendly, simple and comprehensible manner but also communicate across the work stream, project and scrum teams, helping them strive for an excellent outcome through consistency, rigour, judgement and creativity. With Visual Management, Programme/Project Managers, can track a real time status of each milestone or backlog item and its deliverable(s) in an unambiguous way by graphically linking individual work streams and key target dates. This almost “physical” execution of the programme and its constituent projects/sprints helps reveal the inter-linkages of end goals, to spot issues early and to apply corrective actions.

Below are three examples of visual management covering different types of project: design thinking, process optimisation and programme and project management.

1: Visual Management in Design Thinking Projects

visual managment in design

Image 1 displays visually key messages and findings along the different steps of the design thinking lifecycle from the identification of key ‘Stakeholders’ and their ‘Focus Areas’ towards the articulation of aspirations (‘Empathise’). The ‘Definition’ of new product features/requirements follows with a graphical representation of a Kano analysis prior to exploring new ideas and its assessment/critique during ‘Ideation’. Once narrowed down to one or two candidates, ‘Prototyping’ and ‘Think-aloud Testing’ can commence. Visual Management in this example worked particularly well to provide C-level stakeholders with a quick status overview whilst also illustrating the importance of the business, employees and customers in the project.

Explainer: Kano analysis
The Kano analysis or model is a theory for product development and customer satisfaction developed in the 1980s by Professor Noriaki Kano which classifies customer preferences into five categories: Must-be Quality, One-dimensional Quality, Attractive Quality, Indifferent Quality and Reverse Quality. A product attribute will drift over time from ‘exciting’ to ‘performance’ and then to ‘essential’. The drift is driven by customer expectation and by the level of performance from competing products. (Wikipedia, (2020). Kano model)

2: Visual Management in Process Optimisation Projects