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Visibility Encourages Project Success

As we continue to seek ways to improve product implementation, I’d like to talk about visibility. Product implementation—regardless of software, hardware, stage, team, complexity, or methodology—is often accomplished in a series of independent, often disconnected, silos, hidden from view from others outside that particular silo. This kind of hidden work disrupts projects and puts them at risk. It’s not just teams that live in siloes; information also gets hidden. Whiteboard sessions and meetings, closed discussions and decisions… these stay invisible to those not in attendance.

The visibility of work, information, conversations will encourage product implementation success. The questions are how, when and with whom should information be shared.

The Project Management Institute recently highlighted how the project team involved in building the Buddha Memorial Center in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, succeeded because it embraced change and visibility throughout. “’Program visibility’ refers to making sure everyone involved is aware of objectives and strategy risks, and that everyone feels involved in the management and its outcome.”

Why is visibility important?
Concerns around visibility center on fears that sharing information early and often increases the potential of information overload, that constant streams of communication cause more work and confusion. These concerns are well documented and are core to people’s hesitation to increase collaboration.

These fears are misguided. Collaboration does not increase the quantity of conversations. Rather, it increases the visibility of preexisting siloed conversations. Any new conversations taking place do so because people are now aware of relevant conversations, to which they originally were not privy. This is not additional noise; more voices heard equals more value.

Additionally, visibility improves projects in the following areas:

  1. Awareness
  2. Alignment
  3. Reduced risk

Awareness is a form of empowerment, motivation and confidence. By being aware of activities, work, and content, people feel they are part of something. Awareness enables them to work more efficiently because they can directly connect their work to other activities and goals within the team, department or organization. 

Alignment results from people being aware. Motivation and empowerment, at a group level, provide alignment and increase quality by ensuring voices are heard and people are working toward a common goal.

Reduced risk is the end result of awareness and alignment. We reduce risk by decreasing potential missed expectations or misunderstandings that are the root cause of most failed projects and costly mistakes.

Methods for Increasing Visibility

As you think about increasing visibility—individually or organizationally—consider both push and pull methods. Visibility, much like how we see in general, is either revealed (pushed) or sought out (pulled).

With push, users have control over information they wish to share. They can engage with external users to improve the project work. They can push information simply, as in a meeting, an email, or through a collaboration stream. Understanding the roles of others and how people behave helps individuals determine which communication channel provides the highest possible value and opportunity.

With pull, people are looking for information. Finding information requires that it be visible and accessible. According to Forrester Research analyst Rob Koplowitz, information workers spend more than an hour a day just looking for information. Pull is harder than push. Not only does it require additional coordination by everyone, but also it depends on the people pulling information to know how to find information. The harder this process is, the less likely people are to seek out information.

In summary, visibility results in teams being more aligned and empowered. By making information more readily accessible and making it easier for people to share and engage with others, visibility removes unseen barriers and improves efficiency.

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