Using the power of visualisation

Using the power of visualisation 28.02.2018 - Meetings are essential in project management. The project manager meets constantly with his team colleagues, with other parties working on the project, with authorities or customers. In all of these meetings, problems and strategies are discussed, ideas are discussed and decisions are made - sometimes they are extremely important and have to produce groundbreaking decisions, sometimes they are simply part of the project's everyday life and should only bring all participants to the same level. In any case, the meetings serve the progress of the project and should therefore be taken seriously. In order to ensure that every meeting has the desired success, it is important that all parties involved are concentrate on the meeting, regardless of whether it lasts ten minutes or two hours. This is the task of the session leader or moderator, who in most cases is also the responsible project manager. To ensure that the team does not lose focus, visualisation is a very effective method.  If everyone in the meeting sees what it is all about, it is more likely that no one is mentally straying.

Visualisation, structuring and recording

The classic flipchart is anything but outdated. It can be used to map and list the topic of the meeting, as well as the agenda items and contributions and ideas during the course of the meeting, so that the structure of the meeting is visible to all. It is best to focus on keywords. As moderator of a meeting, the project manager also has to write down notes for the meeting report. These are more detailed than the notes on the flipchart. Taking notes during a meeting is not always easy. The project manager not only needs to understand the subject matter, he must also grasp the essence of each statement, establish the connection to the topic and finally recognise the relevance and the consequences. In addition, there are often several contributions to a topic. At the end, a consensus is usually reached, so that previous contributions are adjusted in their weighting. If everything happens too fast and unstructured, the moderator is welcome to ask an interim question. For example, this could be: "Let's sum it up: we chose solution B because reason C says so?" This makes it easier for the moderator to get the consent of the participants and at the same time it calls the consensus into the consciousness of all.

Pictorial visualisation

A visualisation does not always have to consist of a list of terms. Often a sketch or picture is the best way of visualisation. On the flipchart, strokes, boxes and arrows can help to turn a word list into a diagram. Thus, connections between tasks, events, decisions and also people can be quickly and clearly understood and are visible to all. Causes and effects can be represented by simple arrows. It is not important that the picture looks perfect. It only has to be thematically correct and easily recognisable. However, it may also change during the meeting.
If it gets too chaotic, just take the next sheet and start with new facts until everything is discussed and all participants agree with the resulting picture or diagram. If we are talking about flipchart, then of course all modern IT-supported comparable means are meant. When projecting from the tablet to the screen what the project manager is writing or drawing, it replaces the flipchart and serves the same purpose.

So many topics

It is often the case that a speech appears in a meeting that does not fit the topic. Either the speaker wants to address this aspect because he thinks it is important to him or someone has not read the agenda.

Sometimes it happens that the subject is digressed. There is one point that is important, but will not be discussed until later in the next item on the agenda. In this case, the moderator should say so.

An effective mean of interrupting the topic and moving it to a later date is also the visualisation: the moderator writes the keyword on the next flipchart page and then returns to the current discussion point. This ensures that the topic is not forgotten and signals to everyone that one point should be closed before moving on to the next. The project manager can use this measure to maintain his or her session structure, slow down speakers who digress (but still address important issues) and create a structure for the further course of the meeting and, if necessary, for the next session. If a point is postponed (and also postponed visibly for all to see), speakers are usually reassured because they know that their contribution has been heard and received. This is how you make progress on your topic and do not risk this point come up over and over again.

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