The words “visual management” are often frightening. Too serious, too boring, we find it hard to imagine them being applied outside the offices of a large company. The reality behind these words, however, is very simple and universal. It can be summed up in the old saying: a drawing is worth more than a thousand words. The view is indeed, from our five senses, the one through which we process the greatest amount of information in the fastest way. Visual facilitation (which we often prefer to the term visual management) is already present in the vast majority of our daily activities, without us even realising it. Take transport, for example. We know very well that a continuous line drawn on the road means that we cannot overtake, whereas a discontinuous line allows us to do so. We don’t need a sign that warns us in words: “you can now overtake for 200 metres”. Visual facilitation is sometimes as simple as that! Here we have selected five visual management tools, all very simple to set up and with a quick and concrete impact on your daily organisation.
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1. Maintaining motivation: the countdown (aka the ABCs of visual management)
Don’t underestimate the power of a simple little foglietti! The countdown timer, placed in a clearly visible position, is an excellent way of not losing sight of your final objective and thus giving meaning to the small tasks of your daily life.
Choose the next big step in your project, the end of your current project, an important appointment you need to prepare in advance, or simply the launch date of a project you are working on.
Place it in an easily accessible place where you will see it every day, ideally close to your workstation or in a common area if you work in a team. Having to manually change the date every day will help you become aware of the time that passes and the progress made (or the delay!) and thus maintain a high level of motivation.
Also remember to write the name of the deadline on your foglietti or next to it. Just reading it every day will help you to keep an eye on it.
2. Limiting the risks: the dependency spider
Visualising the deadlines in order to advance more serenely towards them is good, but succeeding in limiting the risks of delay in order to increase our chances of meeting this deadline is even better. To achieve this, we advise you to try the dependency spider exercise.
The dependency spider helps you to visualise the people or groups of people you depend on to carry out your projects. They may be suppliers, colleagues, a customer who has to send you his order or even your line manager who is waiting for validation.
Draw in the middle a representation of you or your team and, all around you, all the groups of people with whom you are connected in your work. Try to be specific enough. For example, in the case of suppliers, don’t just put a “suppliers” group but draw a group for each supplier. Connect all these sources of dependency to the centre of your spider (i.e. to you). Ideally, and to maximise the visual effect, don’t just write the names, but associate with them symbols, photos or avatars representing these groups.
On a daily basis, as soon as one of these groups blocks your progress or forces you to wait, place a foglietti on the line connecting you. On it, clearly and simply describe the reason for the blockage and its consequences, note also the name of the group causing the blockage as well as its start date. As soon as the block is resolved, write on the corresponding foglietti its resolution date.
Update your dependency spider daily. You may decide to keep it in place for an entire project or for a specific period of time, e.g. a quarter, in order to carry out an analysis of your sources of dependency. At the end of the chosen period, photograph your spider and retrieve all your blockage foglietti. Analyse them, alone or as a team, and, for each one, try to see how the blockage could have been avoided or shortened. If the blockages are recurrent and superior in a group, it may be necessary to dig a little further…
3. Better time management: interruption buckets
In the same vein, you can monitor and analyse the interruptions you face on a daily basis with the Interruption buckets. This exercise will enable you to identify your real sources of interruption and to transform a possible feeling towards a colleague, customer or supplier into concrete data that will enable you to initiate a real change with them.
Here we offer you two ways of doing this. One is simpler and more concise, the other is richer and more documented. It’s up to you to judge which one best suits your situation. Draw on foglietti or on a wall (in this case using masking tape) “buckets” each corresponding to an interruption source. Whenever one of these sources interrupts you in your work, fill in a foglietto clearly and concisely describing the interruption and its consequences and place it in your bucket or colour one notch of your gauge.
Set either a time limit (e.g. “I will analyse this information on the 30th of the month”) or a maximum threshold of interruptions (e.g. “I will analyse this information as soon as a bucket reaches 5 interruptions”) and then analyse the interruptions. Here too, try to find solutions and suggest them to your contact person. Initiating the discussion on concrete facts that you have listed rather than on a feeling, which is subjective and emotionally charged by nature, will be more constructive and better accepted by your interlocutor.
4. Better stress management: the stress level meter
Another visual management tool that will allow you to defuse potentially heated or sensitive discussions or situations in advance is the stress level meter. Like all the other tools presented in this article, this level meter can be used as well as you work alone or in a team.
To make it, take four foglietti in four different colours. Define, on your own terms, four levels of stress/calm that you are likely to experience. Write each level on a foglietto, according to the colour code that will speak to you the most. If you feel in a creative mood, don’t hesitate to add designs that will speak for themselves.
Then assemble these foglietti together, for example using masking tape. Finally, hang this pretty bouquet of moods on a wall, ideally at the entrance to your office. Every morning, when you arrive at the office, let your visitors know your stress level for the day by moving a small clip on the corresponding foglietti.
If you work in a team, this will be an opportunity to take a minute at the beginning of the day to get to know each other’s state of mind and to align yourself with each other. Whereas if you work alone, this brief moment of introspection will give you the opportunity to become aware of your state of mind and, if necessary, to remedy it (e.g. by being a little more tolerant with yourself that day) or to adapt your day’s tasks accordingly. So keep the more social activities, such as customer meetings, on days when you feel more relax!
Bonus: one of the great advantages of Foglietto memo cards compared to sticky notes and notebooks is that you can print on your cards. Here we show you how.
5. Boosting self-confidence: the goal of the day
Simple but effective: take the time at the beginning of the day to define something you want to accomplish today, then write it down on a foglietto that you will keep visible all day long.
The aim is not to be ambitious, but to boost your self-confidence by helping you become aware of your achievements. Don’t throw away your daily foglietti, but keep them in a safe place and take them out occasionally for an assessment.
Let yourself be guided by your creative fibre and make posters of your best achievements of the month, grouping together all your daily objectives. Display it somewhere and, as soon as you feel your motivation and self-esteem flagging, admire it and savour the road you have travelled.
In a word
Visual management is for everyone, whether you are an employee, an entrepreneur, the head of a multinational or your own small business. It is a clear and simple way to communicate and understand information, but also to analyse a situation.
With its colours, different patterns, small size, robustness and 100% flexible nature, Foglietto is the ideal tool to get you started in visual management. Know that the ultimate goal of visual management is to make your life easier, so you can feel completely free to imagine your own tools, test them and experiment to find the ones that best suit your situation and needs.
Many other methods exist, one of the best known being the Kanban board. You can find our article “How to make your Kanban board in 5 steps” here.
* Some of the visual management tools presented here are inspired by the methods of the agile coach Jimmy Janlén.
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Foglietto is the first office supplies brand dedicated to visual management. It is a complete agile solution to manage your various projects on a daily basis. The unlimited flexibility of an analogue solution such as Foglietto allows it to easily adapt to all sizes and types of companies, from freelancers to large groups and start-ups, while its great modularity gives it a natural affinity with the innovation, R&D and IT development sectors.
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