Make everything visible: is visualisation the key to creating real change?

Co-founder and Agile expert Henrik Kniberg reveals one of his ‘dirty tricks’ for creating organisational change.

Make everything visible: is visualisation the key to creating real change?

Co-founder and Agile expert Henrik Kniberg reveals one of his ‘dirty tricks’ for creating organisational change. – Jesse Karjalainen

There is nothing more frustrating than working for a great company and doing great work, while at the same time being hounded by bottlenecks and pointless obstacles that only slow you down.

Well, actually, there is something worse.

Worse would be the example of having perfectly good systems and procedures in place, only for those to be replaced by something new and incomprehensibly silly and slow.

Two examples that immediately come to mind: banning all bins at staff desks in a bid to cut the cost of office cleaning, with the inevitable results of staff never sitting still for longer than 20 minutes and overcrowding in the copy room, where the central waste bins were located; and, following a takeover by another company, finding out that about the strict policy that staff may not use company credit cards, for any type of business purchase, which must have made fun work for the finance department.

The truth is, decisions get made at the top and directives cascade down, often with little understanding of the knock-on effect of all the unintended consequences. And only once these build up and cause larger problems, do they usually (not always) get rectified several months later.

So, what if this is you. What can be done if, valuable as you are to the company, you see problems all around but have no direct authority or any real say? Email the CEO? No chance. Post an anonymous note in the suggestion box? Yeah right.


A ‘dirty little trick’ for creating change

Co-founder and agile expert, Henrik Kniberg, has made better working practices his life mission. He started out as a programmer but soon got involved in start-ups as an entrepreneur, having worked at Spotify, Lego and Minecraft.

As a manager himself, needing to figure out how everyone could work together, he started identifying patterns – patterns and principles that later came to be known as agile methods and practices.

“I noticed that while agile practices are quite software specific, it turns out that agile principles are super universal and can be applied to almost any kind of development,” he says.

“For example, there's a dirty trick that I like to share when it comes to creating change within an organisation,” he adds.

“Say you are a person on a team and you see a great video – maybe one of ours – showing a technique such as value stream mapping, which is basically showing when work gets done, how big a part of that is work and how much is waiting?”

“The best way to introduce this concept of visualisation into your own company or organisation is to demonstrate its usefulness and power,” he suggests.

“I’ve seen examples of where people put that on the wall and have shown very clearly – to anyone that walks by – that, ‘Man, it takes three years to develop a new product but is three weeks of work!’”

“In most cases, the times when I’ve seen a person with no formal authority cause massive change, is when they visualise the current situation in a clear way.”

Lean, agile, flow

“Visualisation is dead clear. And when managers walk by that wall, stuff sometimes happens. Visualise the work. Make stuff visible.”

“You don't need to have artistic skills. All you need is some metaphors and some ways of structuring the visualisation. Just sketches and boxes.”

“We love doing those things, so a lot of our training material is oriented around making stuff visible in a clear way.”

Subscribe for updates, articles and new courses

Never miss a thing from us!