Humans often don't appreciate uncertainty. Creating a visual roadmap can allow the team to all stay on the same page and have an understanding of what is coming ahead, so they can plan for it.
- 90% of information transmitted through the brain is visual, so it makes sense that humans are visual by nature. It's really common to use spreadsheets or word documents to map out our project, and we assume it serves as a clear guide and that everyone gets it. The challenge is not everyone gets it. This is why it's important as a team to create a visual roadmap. A visual roadmap is just as it sounds. It's essentially a visual representation of where you're going, where you are today, and how you're going to get to the destination.
There are two key reasons you want this visual roadmap. First, because people are more visual, using visuals increase the likelihood of alignment and persuading external stakeholders. Second, to communicate the story quickly. Often times, you need to communicate a high level story of what you're working on with key stakeholders. You don't usually get a long time to do so, and research shows that the average attention span of an engaged audience is only 20 minutes. So what do you need on these roadmaps? There are several things that can be interesting and the nuances may be dependent on your team, but as a baseline I would suggest a few things.
First, the collective goal. This should be present immediately to any person. It is the high level summary of what you're trying to achieve and important that everyone internalize it. Second, timeline and milestones with current status. There are so many work streams going on. What's going on this week and where are we with it? Third, decision-making on key streams. Who is working together on what, and importantly, who's the key decision maker? Knowing this allows you as a team member to go to the source if you have any questions about any interdependent work streams.
Also, have norms for the team. What are the agreed upon behaviors this team has adopted? It could be something as simple as we start and end meetings on time. The value of having this is a reminder and agreed upon state that allows you to hold yourself and others accountable. Finally, meetings. How and when will the team be informed? For example, perhaps one of the subteams has meetings on Mondays at 9:00 that you can attend. Perhaps there's a meeting for the whole group every two weeks.
It's important to know the channels for connection and information for everyone involved. This baseline will give everyone a high chance of being aligned, and it's scalable as it cuts down on unnecessary meetings. In order to make this a reality, you can use something as simple as PowerPoint, but if possible, I would suggest using a software like Asana or Aha. Just a quick note, this is not as easy as it sounds. It requires everyone in the team to really feel ownership.
The ways to help create this environment is to share the why. This will help us be aligned and cut down on unnecessary meeting time. As a leader, demonstrate follow-through. When people don't do so, hold them accountable in a compassionate and kind way. Remember, no one wants to fail at their job. Perhaps they forgot or are just finding it hard to do. Assume positive intent. Creating alignment with teams, whether they are a team of three or 30, is hard.
You want to give yourself the best chance of doing so in a scalable way that minimizes time and maximizes output. Leveraging the human condition of being visual will give you the highest probability of doing so.
- Solving collaboration challenges
- Aligning on a collective goal
- Analyzing the current situation
- Selecting the right participants
- Establishing roles and responsibilities
- Engaging support from leaders
- Making a visual roadmap
- Facilitating effective meetings
- Evaluating results