Visual PM: Going Old School and Low Tech

Michael R. Wood is a Business Process Improvement & IT Strategist Independent Consultant. He is creator of the business process-improvement methodology called HELIX and founder of The Natural Intelligence Group, a strategy, process improvement and technology consulting company. He is also a CPA, has served as an Adjunct Professor in Pepperdine's Management MBA program, an Associate Professor at California Lutheran University, and on the boards of numerous professional organizations. Mr. Wood is a sought after presenter of HELIX workshops and seminars in both the U.S. and Europe.

If you google “visual PM” (VPM), you will find that most of the items returned are for software tools that promote graphics and dashboards to leverage the project status communications process. There is very little in the way of case studies or examples of how VPM helps project managers actually manage a project.

With that in mind, I looked back on the projects I have done over a few years to see what VPM-like techniques helped me to manage them. I chose three projects to illustrate the use of some low-tech, low-cost approaches that helped accelerate the project process, improve stakeholder understanding of progress and to maintain the focus of project teams on getting the job done.

Before diving into those real-life examples, it’s important to establish some working definitions of VPM, which was born from visual control management (VCM). For this, I will turn to the article entitled “Visual PM: Something Old, Something New...” I penned for ProjectManagement.com in 2014, where I presented the following:

Visual control management (VCM) represents the process used in managing work using visual cues to trigger action. Wikipedia defines VCM as follows:

“Visual control is a business management technique employed in many places where information is communicated by using visual signals instead of texts or other written instructions. …

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