Much of what’s covered in the news lately about visual thinking is its power to support individual thinking. A recent article posted on KQED’s MindShift, for example, talks about the power of sketchnoting (taking non-linear notes that are a mixture of words and images) to increase comprehension and retention of information for students. While the positive influence of visual thinking on individual learning is terrific, what excites me most about visual thinking is its power to move groups, and organizations, forward.
At the International Forum of Visual Practitioners conference in Berlin last year, and again at the conference in Austin last week, I introduced a framework for how we can combine visual thinking tools and strategies with organizational change efforts to support positive change in organizations. I call the framework the Visual Change Planner because it’s a practical template for leaders and facilitators of change who want to enhance their change efforts with visual thinking strategies:
Guiding Principles for Using the Visual Change Planner
- You don’t need to be a great artist to combine visual thinking into your change efforts. More on this later.
- The Change Planner is agnostic about your approach to change. Mostly. The Planner is flexible and doesn’t outline a specific change process, so it works for Kotter 8 Steps converts as well as people who prefer the ADKAR model from Prosci, for example. It does assume you are aiming for engagement and alignment in your change efforts because change is first and foremost about people.
- Think carefully about the visual metaphor or theme that underlies the visual tools you’ll be using. Whether it’s a journey across choppy waters to a green and thriving land or a bike race up the Alpe d’Huez to a finish line on top of the mountain, the metaphor must resonate with your organization and feel natural in your culture. Beware of imposing a metaphor on the organization – what works for you may not work for others. Once you have identified an appropriate visual metaphor, pull it through all of the visual work you do during the change process (think of it like a red thread that ties the work together).
How to Use the Visual Change Planner Template
- Start at the top. Identify the current state of the business and where you want to go. Your goal could be cultural transformation, but it could also be shifting how you work under a new performance management system, for example.
- Identify the process steps that will help you move from the current state to the future state. These process steps should ideally tie into your overarching approach to or philosophy about change (see Guiding Principle #2, above). The figures in the image at the top are a gentle reminder about the fluid nature of change and that people are often at different stages of the change process.
- Clarify the objective for each process step.
- Identify a visual tool or strategy that will help support the objective for each step. What are your options? Keep reading!
25 Visual Tools and Strategies to Support Change
Here are 25 potential visual tools and strategies to inspire you to include visuals in your change process. You may realize you’re already a visual change agent as you look through this list. If so, congratulations! This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but rather a list to get you thinking about all of the options that are available to you. Some require excellent visual facilitation or illustration skills, and some require nothing more than a big piece of paper and a pen. (There are many visual practitioners out there who can help you design and facilitate these and other solutions if the thought of implementing any of these makes you cringe.) Many are visual activities to do with groups to engage them in the change process (these are indicated with a GA for group activity).
In future posts I’ll highlight a few of these in more detail, along with images of what they look like. In the meantime, some of these are included in Dave Gray’s book Gamestorming, along with practical how-to guides for how to implement them with groups.
- Future state prototyping or collage (GA)
- Future state visioning using large visual templates (see the Cover Story Vision template from The Grove) (GA)
- “Strategy maps” or “Story maps” that show the future state or vision and how to get there
- Visual change project plan (see the Graphic Gameplan from The Grove as an example)
- Priority setting sessions with leaders using graphic recording or visual templates (GA)
- Visual scenario planning with a graphic recorder or using a visual templates (GA)
- Visual team chartering workshop with the transition monitoring team (GA)
- Infographics or posters to help sell the problem and why change is needed
- Stakeholder mapping using a large visual template (GA)
- Change narrative/storytelling mapping using a visual template (GA)
- Post-it note activity for stakeholder communication planning (GA)
- Illustrated communications “dashboard” to track progress
- Sketch animation videos to communicate updates about changes and successes
- Graphic recording with leaders to identify who is losing what in the change process (GA)
- Individual reflection templates to capture concerns about change
- Visual conversation guides for check-ins between line managers and teams
- Visual template that helps people see how what they do contributes to the future (GA)
- Lego exercise around what people want to keep and let go of in the new organization (GA)
- Stop and Go signs for leaders when talking about what certain activities
- A custom gameboard to show how to navigate the “neutral zone” of change
- Graphic recording to capture peoples’ concerns about the change process (GA)
- Roles and responsibilities clarification exercise using a visual template (GA)
- Visual mementos of successes that happen along the way (T-shirts, pins, hand-drawn awards)
- Big, fun visual thank yous (think of a large foamcore cut-outs) for those who model new behaviors
- Illustrated change “dashboard” to show where and when change is happening
Visual thinking can enhance any organizational change effort and can be woven into the planning, implementing and tracking of change. By doing so you’ll increase clarity, engagement and alignment.
I’d love to hear what visual tools you are already using in your change efforts or which of these you are interested in trying.
Lane Change Consulting is a consultancy based in San Francisco specializing in graphic facilitation, graphic recording and team effectiveness. We design and facilitate strategic, collaborative conversations that create clarity, focus and engagement in organizations. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.