For over 50 years the advertising industry has proved that images are a far more effective way to get a message across that using words alone. Imagine opening a glossy magazine to find adverts that are merely a list bullet points; it’s unlikely to make anyone buy a new pair of shoes or put a downpayment on a car.
Following three simple guidelines can improve communication across IT. Senior managers that get it right can unite their teams around a common set of visual formats that make employees more engaged in their work, help them understand IT and firmwide strategy and how their role contributes to that strategy, and be able to relay that to others.
Concise content: More isn’t better. The more goals, priorities, values, capabilities and competencies managers add the harder it becomes for teams to understand and plan against the parts that really matter.
Presentations should start with a single page, visual summary of strategic drivers and the major initiatives planned to achieve those goals. You can provide more detail on subsequent pages, but if you can’t create a visual summary on a single page it’s likely your story is too complex.
Consistent formats: The content of your plans and roadmaps should be agile, changing rapidly as new opportunities arise. Conversely, your visual formats should be consistent. It’s harder for audiences to understand how the content has changed if visual format keeps changing as well.
Pick one or two formats that work well, and use them exclusively for all roadmap presentations. Resist the temptation to create a new visual for a specific point. Any benefits are likely to be outweighed by the longer-term cognitive cost of switching formats.
Adopted by teams: While leaders can shape strategy, successful implementation comes from the middle out, not the top down. Plans and roadmaps must flow both ways.
Strategy is much more likely to be understood and internalized when teams adopt the same visuals to show how their plans support the firm level strategic drivers. That means leaders should make it easy for teams to plug into the same tools and frameworks to use in their own planning.