Visuals make a difference in project work and in general organisational life. I have benefited from creating visuals in project management and operational management roles – and in teaching. Research reveals that my anecdotal experience of these benefits is not unique. Rather, the majority of people enjoy, or even have a preference for, engaging with visual material and those who use visuals can increase their influence as their messages are often more easily understood and better remembered than text-based communications alone.
However, few people in management and affiliated roles feel they have the skills, creativity or equipment to develop visuals to use in their professional contexts. It can be daunting to face the blank page with a muddle of thoughts and a deadline to enable others to understand a critical message or conundrum. This book, with its catalogue of visual archetypes – developed from practice experience – has been written for those facing this challenge, particularly those who may be working in organisations that do not have access to sophisticated information systems with advanced reporting capabilities. It has been developed with project, program and portfolio managers and directors, and their work in mind, and leverages the terminology and concepts of organisational project management. But the archetypes can be applied to far more diverse situations and I hope will be used by those outside project, program and portfolio management to help improve the way we communicate in organisations.
While this book draws on graphic design techniques, its aim is to empower non-designers to build a comfort with visual language that they may already have with the written word. My hope is that after reading this book managers will feel more confident in their ability to create the visuals they need to influence stakeholders and communicate important messages. Much of the discussion in this volume uses executive management or senior leaders as an example of project stakeholders. However, the principles discussed and archetypes provided can equally be used to engage project teams, reference groups or other stakeholder groups. This book can be a tool in your arsenal which helps you deal with the many challenges you face as part of the lived experience of project work. This book doesn’t address big data or automated visualisation of an organisation’s large quantitative datasets – while this is an important element of visualisation, there are numerous texts on this booming area. This book’s focus is on sharing ‘messier’ data which is often qualitative and has traditionally been the domain of lengthy text-based documents.
If you are new to creating visuals it will take time to build confidence and capability and your initial attempts may lack the professional finesse you aspire to. Despite this, I urge you to persist, to take notice of the features of visuals that are impactful and clear, to practice (practice and practice), to seek feedback from your stakeholders, and over time your capabilities will improve. And you will reap the benefits!
Research increasingly reveals the importance of engaging stakeholders and conveying complexity in an understandable way in a world of ‘information overload’. Creating visuals can increase your influence by improving the likelihood of your message or question being noticed and understood, and triggering a decision or action. Happy visualising!