Editor’s Note: Luis Moura is a project-management consultant for The City of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. He has worked as an internal consultant on projects for Calgary’s information technology, emergency response, facilities management, transportation, water, utilities, waste and recycling services.
Luis attended The Grove’s Visual Facilitation for Project Managers workshop in June. A few weeks later, we caught up with him to learn more about how he uses visual practices in his work.
Infographics: Bridge from Data to Visual
GROVE: What led you to become “The Visual Guy” on your team? Have you always been a visual person?
LUIS MOURA: Everything started in 2014 when a colleague gave me the idea to start doing some of my materials using web infographics. I searched online and found some tools. Once I began using these, I quickly got hooked and began looking for ways to translate data from meetings into visual form.
Even though my first infographics were childish, people loved them. I started to get calls: “Hey Luis, I have to send this message, I have to do this promotion. I was wondering—can we do an infographic?” I would say, “Sure, let’s try it.” Then the whole thing started growing like crazy.
After a time I looked for training to build my visual capacities. As I went through the materials of a colleague who had taken a strategic-management facilitation training, I saw a reference to The Grove’s visual approach. When I googled “Grove Consultants,” I saw that you offered a Visual Facilitation for Project Managers workshop, which was a great fit.
Going Visual Across the Board
GROVE: Are your project teams responsive to a visual approach?
LUIS: Here in Calgary I notice a high appetite among my internal clients for absorbing data in a visual manner. I see lots of interest in using visuals to learn, spark ideas, and come to decisions.
At this point, everything I do is with visuals. When I facilitate, I draw. Every time I do a workshop design, I think, “Okay, this is what I need to achieve in the meeting. How am I going to introduce my participants to this? How am I going to boil this down to a visual?”
I am spreading my enthusiasm about adding a visual component to the process. Other people on my team have started drawing too. We facilitate a lot of project charters, project plans, and lessons learned. Also, we are starting to do some strategic work using visuals.
Drawing: “Go For It”
GROVE: Was any portion of the workshop especially relevant to your situation?
LUIS: The drawing session in The Grove workshop (facilitated by Grove consultant Malgosia Kostecka) helped me so much, because I had been insecure about this part of doing facilitation. Getting more comfortable with drawing built my confidence as a facilitator. Instead of being nervous about drawing on the spot, this became fun.
Malgosia taught us to do flip-charting. Now my flip charts all have a border and I use arrows with shading. I have become a drawing geek! I have my own style and am loyal to it. I am still learning how to navigate the Group Graphics® Keyboard and choose the best format on the fly.
I am taking Malgosia’s advice: “You have to put your judgment aside.” I take that seriously. Otherwise, you can’t do the work. If you are always judging, your confidence will go down and this will affect your working relationship with clients. Just do it, and trust that you will get better with time.
I want to draw more. I want to have a capability that, when people are sharing their ideas with me, I can draw those ideas, and at the end I can have a “beautiful something” for them. I’m working toward this goal.
The Power of a Shared Dashboard
GROVE: Do you view any particular visual tools as being especially useful to project managers?
LUIS: I’ve noticed that suddenly all over the place our programs and projects have dashboards—a central visual tool in project management. A dashboard gives a visual display from a high-level, 3,000-foot perspective, showing if a project is on schedule and on budget. It keeps top-of-mind the risks that a company faces, financial and otherwise. Although each dashboard is unique to the situation, dashboards commonly include project status, what is completed, status of scheduling, budget spent, and budget to be spent.
From a business-decision perspective, we need to make better-informed decisions. With the essential data displayed visually, patterns tend to reveal themselves.
Communicating a Process with a Visual
Another core visual practice is to draw the flow of a process as you describe it. When people hold an assumption that something will be hard to understand, communicating about it visually can break through. Often I use a three-step process that I put into a visual. As I draw, I describe it this way: “This is the process that we are going to follow: 1) the future state, 2) the current state, and 3) how to close the gap.” People typically reply, “Okay, that looks doable. We can do that.” Having the visual makes all the difference.
GROVE: Any closing thoughts?
LUIS: Somewhere along the way, I changed my mindset to “I am a visual person.” It was a shift of paradigm. I was all words before—or maybe I really wasn’t; perhaps it’s just that I had only been exposed to words-based methods before. When I found out that I work better with visuals, this gave me new advantages, new skills.
Now I have extra bandwidth as a project-management consultant. People get more excited, and they are more interested. A powerful psychological shift occurs when you bring the visual in.
Workshop Opportunity in November: There are a few seats left in Visual Facilitation for Project Managers, a two-day Grove workshop in November with co-trainers Benoit Isaac, project management consultant, and Laurie Durnell, Grove senior consultant and co-president. For more information, view the workshop description. Call to register: +1.415.561.6132.