How to Give Your Team Project Visibility

Jan 29, 2019
Post Masthead

If they ask you what the progress is on the project one more time, you just might explode.

You’ve given them all of the updates they need, sent emails and Slack messages back and forth, answered dozens (if not hundreds) of questions, followed up and CC’d all of the right people, and made sure to link to all of the right documents where everyone had access.

You spent a lot of time updating your stakeholders and peers, and yet somehow, no one seems to really understand what progress looks like.

You, my friend, need to give your team the gift of project visibility — the ability for any team member (or stakeholders) to look at a project or workflow and know exactly where it is terms of progress.

What is project visibility?

There’s four core components to project visibility:

  • Overall project goals or outcomes
  • Visual timeline or Gantt showing the moving parts of the project
  • Team(s) or person(s) responsible for each moving parts
  • Project risks and threats, even if not directly stated

Project visibility means that a project’s status, overall plan, strategy, and associated risks are discernible to virtually anyone who reviews it.

Even if the viewer is not a subject matter expert, they have a general sense of the ultimate goal of the project, and they can see the moving the parts associated with accomplishing the outcomes.

Assuming the project has been planned well, project visibility also gives a general sense of who is responsible for moving specific parts along the project timeline.

Benefits of project visibility

Project visibility is a beautiful thing when it’s done right. You’ll immediately:

  • spend less time on back and forth communication.
  • produce even better deliverables and outcomes.
  • drastically improve your results.

This is due to a number of factors, but especially because it reduces ad hoc “catch-up” sessions. Important stakeholders and team members will simply just know what’s going on and at any point, they can catch up based on the project visibility you’ve provided to them.

Someone goes on vacation? No problem. They have access to everything they need to know as to exactly where the project is at all times.

Plus, because they’re so in tune with the project visibility you’ve provided them, they’ll be able to give you the feedback you need to make adjustments and produce even better results for everyone.

How to give your team project visibility

Okay, great. How do we do that?

You might think “Oh! All I have to do is produce a Gantt chart and everyone will leave me alone!”

Oh no. No, no. Dear sweet summer child.

As mentioned above, true project visibility means:

  • maintaining regular communication with team members and stakeholders
  • supportive project visuals like Gantt charts and kanban
  • high-level overview of the project’s plan
  • detailed-overview of the project’s plan

Communication with team

A crucial part of project visibility is communicating with the team on a macro-level and setting the stage for on-going micro-level communication.

This is where a communication plan becomes an indispensable part of giving project visibility. Communication usually happens on three tiers in any given project:

  1. Executive members and stakeholders — the people who have a specific interest in the success of the project, but who you might not actually interface with (your manager might be the one responsible for communicating the plan; it just depends)
  2. Reporting manager and other supporting directors — the person who’s ultimately responsible for either the project or you or both
  3. Team members and direct reports — the people you’ll be doing the elbow grease work with
  4. Clients (if applicable) — if you’re in an agency, there’s both internal and external stakeholders to give visibility to

All of these groups could greatly use some form of project visibility.

While not all parties need to be given the exact same amount of project visibility, it’s always helpful to have a simple playbook for who needs to be CC’d and communicated with on a regular basis, and who needs the quarterly, lean update on the project’s progress.

Here’s a few ways to provide project visibility for team members at all levels of the organization:

Quarterly Executive Planning Meeting

Every successful, amazing project usually doesn’t happen without executive or director-level support. If you’re in a position to present your project to an executive team, just remember to keep calm when creating your high-level plan.

Work with your manager and other stakeholders on determining what amount of detail they would like to see in the plan, and what would be an effective use of their time.

This is also an excellent time to discuss any challenges, risks, and blockers that could potentially hinder the success of the project — especially if it requires some cross-departmental support.

But don’t mistake this meeting as a way to shuffle in and shuffle out and bore your executives to tears.

As long as the project aligns with the company’s goals, outlines how you’re going to get there, and how you came to that conclusion, you’ll not only win them all over, but they’ll be working hard to figure out how to help you succeed.

Weekly Status Update

This is one of my personal favorites.

Every week, you’ll send a detailed email to all of the relevant project stakeholders and team members. The weekly status update can include:

  • Major project accomplishments and wins
  • KPIs, metrics, and progress towards goals
  • Shout-outs to team members who helped make it happen
  • Project roadblocks and plans to overcome them
  • Key insights that came from the project so far
  • Upcoming milestones and project phases
  • Sneak-peek previews of deliverables and progress
  • Visual marker of where you are in the project

The weekly status update is also a game-changer. If anyone wants to know what’s happening or where the project is at, they can easily get up to speed through your weekly update and send informed questions later.

If the thought of piling a bunch of information in an email gives you heartburn, you can put all of the status content into a Google Doc instead and email out the link every week. You’ll be able to give viewers the ability to leave comments and collaborate on the document as well.

The choice is yours!

Monthly & Weekly 1:1’s

Often times, when stakeholders and team members have questions but they’re afraid to ask them in any of the forums provided to them, they’ll keep to themselves.

Those questions will turn into burning, heated questions, and out of nowhere, you’ll receive of flurry of inquiries that require you to unpack weeks and months of progress.

Or worse — it manifests as burgeoning animosity and doubt in the project and its direction.

You might also experience constant project blockers where you need the support from some other team, department, or business unit and you can’t seem to get the other leader to move.

Thus, project delays and 🤷‍♀️ happens.

The hands-down easiest way to handle this is by scheduling a monthly (or sometimes even weekly) 1:1 with your most important stakeholders and leaders. Depending on your role, you might also want to do the same for your team members.

The monthly 1:1 is a great place for your team to air any concerns or blockers they have while also realigning them on the ultimate mission and vision of the project.

Plus, it’s a great time for you to air your concerns as well with your stakeholders. This kind of project visibility is usually the exact type that a stakeholder needs.

If they truly have a stake in the success of the project, they’ll do what they can to help it succeed. And they can only know that if you tell them! On your terms, of course!

On-Going Communication

These are the messages that go back and forth in email, Slack, Skype… whatever your project management tool of choice is about the project.

Every day, you might review comments and messages to keep a tab on where everything is at from a more detailed level.

Usually, project stakeholders don’t need to be involved in the minute-to-minute, day-to-day updates. That’s reserved specifically for the team who’s helping execute on the plan.

Supportive Project Visuals

Not everyone has the same level of expertise and knowledge about the details of a project as you do — especially if you’ve planned and scoped out the work yourself.

Gantt charts high level project overview

That said, providing some form of project visuals is a great way to visually communicate how your project is going to roll out.

There's really two flavors of project visuals here:

  • A very detailed, in-depth overview
  • A lean, high-level overview

Typically the more in-depth overviews are for team members and people in the trenches. They'll need to know (and see) how the project will be executed over time and which department is responsible for delivering what.

The high-level, lean overviews are perfect for stakeholders and people are aren't necessarily in the weeds of the tasks and the work.

In either scenario, Gantt charts and kanban boards are an excellent way to show the progress in a project.

Give your team the gift of project visibility

Communicating the high-level and detailed level of your project doesn’t have to be a burden if you’re investing your time and resources in the right things.

In fact, if you remember to schedule regular 1:1 meetings with your stakeholders and team members and provide the right deliverables in each of those meetings, you’ll give everyone the confidence they need to continue to support your project.

One of the simplest ways to provide your team project visibility is by leveraging a project management tool with proper visibility features. This would include features like a kanban board, tasks, subtasks, and Gantt charts to show the high-level view and the detailed plan.

When you have those 1:1 meetings, pull up either a Gantt chart or kanban board in your favorite project management tool to communicate the project's progress. You can even take screenshots to send to stakeholders and team members.

What are some other ways you like to give your team project visibility?