You know the saying: A picture is worth a thousand words. But in the post-pandemic era of work that many are calling the next normal — where agile businesses require both complex processes and clear communication — a good visual might be worth closer to a million.
Organizations in the next normal are cross-functional, collaborative and depend on multiple stakeholders coming together and aligning their unique roles to achieve a shared vision. However, coordinating that vision can pose its own problems. According to respected project management expert Harold Kerzner, project leaders spend 90% of their time communicating, and that is often in the form of complex, word-heavy documentation that can add more confusion than clarity.
IT and project leaders can’t solve complexity with complexity, anteing words upon words. By leveraging visuals, leaders can instead enable teams to align more quickly on the big picture, potential bottlenecks and next steps to keep projects moving forward.
Here are five ways visuals can help your teams gain the necessary insight to make better decisions—and build better products.
1. Understand the problem
Too many companies today are building solutions before understanding the problems they’re actually trying to solve. Customer needs, feedback and priorities for a project can easily be lost in the (literal) fine print. When teams are stuck digging through spreadsheets, databases and emails, it’s difficult to identify the root of the problems you’re trying to solve, resulting in products that don’t address customer needs.
Think about how you map and build out a customer journey or user experience. While helpful, detailed product documentation sheets can’t give a clear picture of how your users navigate through your product, where they’re running into roadblocks, or the triggers that lead to desired actions. Visualizing these interactions goes a long way toward helping teams make sense of and prioritize customer feedback and product roadmaps. It also helps them gain a better understanding of the entire user journey before ever building a product.
For example, a wordy user flow transforms into a flowchart. A diagram shows how short- and long-term project goals fit together. And a visual workflow uses an easy-to-follow series of arrows to show who is responsible for what and accountable to whom. These visuals can then help product teams more clearly identify holes in the customer experience and which needs should be prioritized, allowing them to move quickly into building the solutions.
2. Manage workloads
Think about all of the innovative applications your teams use every day to move projects forward. There are project management platforms, one (or more) analytics tools, internal messaging channels, emails, spreadsheets and cloud data and file storage—plus all of the specialized systems used across departments. With so many processes, work becomes disjointed.
Written documentation of processes and workflows won’t reveal the bottlenecks, dependencies, conflicting priorities and just how overburdened (or underutilized) your team members might be. It’s one thing to assign an employee ten different tasks over email or in a meeting. It’s another when you can actually see that imbalanced workload in a project planning diagram. By visualizing workloads, teams can stay aligned on task status and priority assignments all while seeing where their tasks fit within the overall project.
These kinds of visuals enable project leaders to easily and clearly identify when teams have hit their limit—and predict when delays will happen.
3. Encourage creativity
“I’m so inspired by this spreadsheet!”
“This 10-page product brief really helped me better understand what we’re trying to build.”
“Thanks for your lengthy email — I can see the vision!”
It’s not that these situations can’t or never happen. Yet, words alone—or continuous rows of data—often can’t communicate the full complexity of a problem.
Long, wordy documents don’t flow naturally. Visuals can do a more effective job of capturing and communicating the big picture. Visual collaboration solutions can act as a “war room” with infinite wall space for the decision-making process. A virtual whiteboard can inspire new ideas to be seamlessly synthesized into action plans. Best of all, collaborators and stakeholders can refer back to the visual workspace as a single source of truth throughout the project, allowing everyone to understand the thought process—and inspiration—behind every idea and decision.
4. Move from idea to action
Visuals remove the complexity and potential misunderstandings with words and spreadsheets to empower teams to more quickly move creative ideas into clear action plans.
When you can capture ideation and brainstorming sessions in a single space and organize the ideas visually, teams are better able to quickly see the connections between ideas and how individual solutions can work together to solve a larger problem. This visualization of what you’re building and how it will impact your users makes team priorities and next steps clear, and all stakeholders stay aligned with a single glance.
5. Adapt to the Next Normal
Businesses were already moving toward digital workplaces and hybrid work environments, but the global shift to remote work accelerated those changes at an unprecedented pace. In the next normal, the companies that thrive will be the ones that embrace new solutions that enable and support collaborative hybrid workforces.
At Lucid, we know product teams need greater agility, creativity and communication in order to build the solutions our customers need. Applications like virtual whiteboards and intelligent diagramming allow everyone in or out of the conference room to participate. Instead of endless email chains that leave people feeling detached, visual processes allow people to engage from anywhere, at any time, and clearly see how their work fits into the bigger picture. This enables teams to move faster than ever in delivering the best possible solutions.
Lead with visual collaboration
Many of the obstacles posed by distributed and hybrid work are opportunities for project leaders to find new ways to help teams stay creative and productive. By leveraging visual collaboration solutions, product builders, designers, engineers and all stakeholders alike can align and iterate faster than ever before to turn ideas into reality.
Visual records and intelligent idea synthesis are changing the way meetings are recorded, the way teams identify priorities, and ultimately, the way we understand the problems our products are trying to solve.
Visuals are an effective way for leaders of any org to capitalize on the changing workplace in the next normal and turn the difficulties of a hybrid workforce into strengths—inspiring teams of all kinds to collaborate and communicate better, make decisions faster and build the future.
Learn how Trapeze Group used Lucidspark to align on strategic business priorities.