With projects becoming increasingly complex, and project managers having to juggle more and more responsibility, achieving and maintaining team alignment is becoming increasingly challenging.
As a result, traditional methods of team collaboration have taken a back seat to technology-driven solutions that put visualization and speed at the forefront of project management. In this post, we’ll discuss some of the challenges project managers face, and how visual collaboration can help them survive and thrive.
The challenges with team alignment
A project manager is given a group of individuals from different areas of the business to form a team. As the team comes together for the first time, the PM instantly has a number of barriers that must be overcome, including:
- Employees might not want to be on the team
- Employees might not know each other
- Employees might not understand what is expected of them
The PM is playing catch up on team alignment before they even start. Each of these barriers take time to overcome, time that the PM doesn’t have due to the more pressing to-dos at the start of a project, like:
- Stakeholders needing to be identified and analyzed
- Requirements needing to be confirmed
- A work breakdown structure needing to be development
- Estimates, schedules and development plans needing to be created
Each of these items need to be started immediately when a project team comes together in order to meet the required deadline and, as such, there’s limited time to overcome team alignment barriers.
Traditionally, the PM takes one of two approaches to solve this issue:
- Ask for individual input from each team member via email or a shared document.
- Hold a group session for each key project element, where everyone helps build the WBS.
Both of these approaches, obviously, have their issues.
With Option 1, it’s easy for individuals to disengage and there’s no collaboration or real team development.
With Option 2, team members aren’t necessarily in the same location. It’s difficult to get the benefits of a hands-on whiteboard session if everyone’s not in the same room. And even if you do hold a good whiteboard or sticky note session, what you’re left with is a static snapshot of what took place in the meeting, which may only make sense in that context. There’s no room for the ideas to evolve, and the momentary team collaboration is not sustained.
How visual collaboration can help
Have you ever wondered why sticky notes are such an effective brainstorming tool?
It’s because they provide visual cues that people can interact with – they can be grouped, re-arranged, thrown out, etc. Team members feel more empowered to participate, and ideas and actions are made clearer.
Here are some of the key benefits of visual collaboration, which text alone can’t compete with:
- Visual collaboration conveys more information, allowing you create relationships and add context to seemingly disconnected snippets of data.
- Visual collaboration makes information more accessible by reducing “jargon” or role-specific knowledge that may not be understood by the rest of the group.
- Visual collaboration is faster and simpler than trying to use hundred of words to explain a concept. Just draw them a diagram and get on with your lives!
- Most of the information project teams need to collaborate is visual in nature. Whether it’s matrices, flow charts, project plans, etc. the end result is a visual document. So why not use a visual approach to create them?
The end result is closer collaboration, clearer alignment and a team that is working towards a common goal. And, mostly importantly, this can be done fast, allowing the team to focus on meeting their deadlines.
Visual collaboration may require a few different pieces of collaboration software, depending on the make up of your team. You’ll likely need a video conferencing software, such as Skype, as well as a visual platform to collect and engage with ideas generated by your team. Together, you can hold robust, virtual collaboration sessions that harness the benefits of visual collaboration.
Get started with visual collaboration
To learn more about how you can deploy visual collaboration techniques into your next project, you may be interested in our whitepaper titled When Project Teams Collaborate Visually: The picture says much more than 1,000 words.
- In his whitepaper, we look at how visual collaboration works in practice, including:
- How to hold visual sessions when your team is geographically dispersed.
- Visual techniques for getting your team acquainted before you begin brainstorming.
- Techniques for collecting important information, and turning it into actionable tasks.
- Presenting your concepts and ideas to key project stakeholders.
- Managing your information and work throughout the project.
- Ensuring your information and task pool remains flexible and adaptable to unforeseen changes in scope and timelines.
- Harnessing visual collaboration to boost personal productivity, and that of your team members.
Download the whitepaper for free to learn more about how visual collaboration can be a game changer for your next project.