Project Management

The Dangers of Visual Project Management

Mike Griffiths is an experienced project manager, author and consultant who works for PMI as a subject matter expert. Before joining PMI, Mike consulted and managed innovation and technology projects throughout Europe, North and South America for 30+ years. He was co-lead for the PMBOK Guideā€”Seventh Edition, lead for the Agile Practice Guide, and contributor to the PMI-ACP and PMP exam content outlines. Outside of PMI, Mike maintains the websites www.LeadingAnswers.com about leading teams and www.PMillustrated.com, which teaches project management for visual learners.

In case you have not noticed, this month’s theme at ProjectManagmenet.com is “Visual Project Management”. I was excited when I heard about this since I am a big fan of adding meaning to all kinds of project elements, whether it is methodology scope, project progress or risk lists using visual tools. As a visual thinker, I like to make sense of a concept spatially before adding detail or explaining it to others. Yet I have found this to be a weakness as well as a strength, because what cannot easily be visualized can often get trivialized or forgotten.

Plans and prototypes are great because they easily bring people together to debate and collaborate on important project elements. Since we have something to point at and annotate, discussions and agreements progress quickly because consensus making is greatly facilitated. However, what about conflict management, decision making across teams or business engagement issues? These are more difficult to visualize but arguably more important than if a website should have a blue or a green background.

The idiom “Out of sight, out of mind” speaks to the dangers of an overreliance on visual management.  So how do we address this threat? I believe there are two main choices: first, find a way to somehow make it visible; or second, consciously bring extra attention to it.

Another project …


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"I've always believed in the adage that the secret of eternal youth is arrested development."

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