and stick approach of extrinsic motivation, a better approach is intrinsic motivation, which consists of three elements; autonomy, mastery and purpose. Autonomy, or the “desire to direct our own lives”, is achieved when team members can see what needs doing, understand the working agreements, and choose themselves what they should do. Mastery or “the urge to get better and better at something that matters” is achieved through being able to interact with the visualisation to evolve and improve it. Purpose, or “the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves”, is achieved when the persistence of the visualisation makes it clear what the value of the work is and why it is being done.
A visualisation consists of multiple pieces of data, and in the classic book “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” [vi], Edward Tufte introduces a set of principles for the effective display of data and it is insightful to review some of these ideas.
Tufte talks about a number of different types of graphical designs. Time series is probably the most common, where time is along the horizontal axis, and another data type along the vertical. This is probably the least relevant design, because a system visualisation is typically a snapshot of the current status. Similarly, a space time narrative, which tells a story in a spatial dimension over time, may not be the most obvious choice. It does raise the question of visualising the narrative of the work over time though, which could be interesting. Maps also introduce some different ideas. What would a visualisation look like it showed the terrain of a project, and where each piece of work was on that terrain? The most common form of visualisation is probably a relational one, where the two axes show different types of information, such as scope and status.
Most of Tufte’s book is spent discussing ways of improving the way that data is presented; specifically, maximising data ink, reducing chart junk, and improving data density. Data ink is the ink that actually represents data. While physical visualisations generally use more than just ink, the principle holds true for making sure that as far as possible, anything on a board should hold information. The corollary to this is that anything which isn’t data ink is chart junk. Grids, redundant data, or decorations and embellishments for aesthetics may create noise which masks the real story. Finally, data density is the amount of data within the given space. The eye can take in a high precision of detail, so by maximising the data ink and being clever with multi-functioning graphical elements, it is possible to visualise many dimensions in a small space.
A kanban system visualisation is what Tufte would call a multi-variant display, with the variants typically being the usual project management details, but also including the concerns of any member of a system’s community of interest. As a starter, there are the popular “iron triangle” variants of scope, time, resource and quality. Other common variants are things like priority, status, issues, risks, constraints, dependencies and assumptions. More recently, teams have been talking in terms of variants such as capacity and demand, not to mention value and other economic aspects.
To visualise all these variants we can use a number of techniques. Properties such as size, colour, format, location and alignment can all create multi-functioning graphical elements to achieve a high data density, while for a physical visualisation, material and texture can add further depth.
Work In Process
Work in Process (WIP), and the way it is limited, is the means