VizThink 08: Drawing the Big Picture

by Luke Wroblewski January 27, 2008

Jim Haudan’s Drawing the Big Picture: Strategy Alignment and Deployment Using Visualization session at VizThink 2008 outlined the role of images and stories in engaging people within organizations toward a shared purpose.

  • Success in any organization is defined by the engagement of the slowest masses. Not the talents of the sharpest few.
  • Gallup Poles indicate that 300 billion is lost in productivity as 25% of a typical organization is disengaged, 50% is ambivalent, and only 25% are agents of change. This lack of engagement results in the fact that 66-90% of strategies that are developed don’t get executed.
  • Haudan’s firm, Root, used to focus on helping executive teams see more broadly to gain context (envision the future), now they are focused on helping organizations execute by also illustrating the present.

How do you get people with different backgrounds and expectations to engage as unified whole? According to Haudan, there are six keys to engagement.

Connect: People want to connect through images & stories

  • The effectiveness and speed with which we can tell stories and capture drama allows us to engage people.
  • You can’t visualize fuzz –have to draw out meaning when you visualize. It’s not about drawing pretty pictures. Use visualizations and diagrams to draw out perspectives.
  • Stories need to convey what it feels like. Include drama.
  • Questions that arise from pictures are what create shared understanding.

Create: People want to create pictures together.

  • The process of drawing brings people together.
  • Usually people want their own pictures of reality or the future to win. Drawing together creates a shared vision of winning.
  • The ability to capture reality is an important part of creating shared meaning.
  • Visual iteration: building ownership and clarity in the story. Makes things more succinct and more relevant (through data).

Believe: People want to believe in their leaders

  • People will tolerate the conclusions of their leaders but they will act on their own. Only people can change their conclusions.
  • You can orchestrate a process of discovery that allows people to come to a new conclusion. This process does change behavior.
  • How to talk about things that no one knows how to discuss: draw pictures of the issues that provide an honest assessment of where an organization is.
  • Leaders are not valued by how smart they are but by how well they can translate complexity/challenges to the organization.

Own: People want to own the solution.

  • Solving puzzles is fun. An engaging mental process brings people together. Strategy is often presented as an answer key instead of a process of learning and forming conclusions.
  • Drawing forces a clarifying process. Forces you to think it through. Lay out the drama, ask the right questions, and allow people to think in a way that is organic.
  • People won’t change if they perceive the need to change as an indictment of their past performance.
  • Strategy is something you participate in because you buy into it.

Play: People want to play the entire game.

  • People need to understand the business: big picture, economics, value for customers, what are core processes, and where are we heading?
  • Developing imagery and asking questions around it helps people play the game.

Practice: People want to practice before they perform.

  • Visualizations allow you to practice.
  • Simulate what may happen through drawings. This allows people to be less risk averse because they have practiced.

People need to know the big picture, drama (urgency), and how to keep score of their business. The only way we can get people into the game is to convert connections, stories, and drama into something that makes sense to them. Stories and images are the best way to do that.