Visual Facilitation - Project Planning

(This is a co-post with the one called "Choosing a Format - Project Planning".)

Project planning is a particular kind of process. (See the co-post on choosing a format for more on this.)

It is very important that people have a shared understanding of what a project is about.  A great way to achieve this is to 'paint a picture' of the project.  There are two kinds of project pictures.  (Sure, there are probably lots more, but these are the two I most often find myself working with.)  They are:
  1. The project workplan or schedule - how the project will happen.
  2. The project impact or 'end state' - what the project will accomplish. 
Both of these can benefit from visual presentation.

The Project Workplan or Schedule

Always start documenting the schedule by documenting the major activities or stages of the project.  This is often as far as you would go in a facilitated group session.  Individuals or pairs can then go away and determine the detailed steps, durations and resource requirements.

An example from a very small group is simply documented with pen and paper:
Rough High Level Picture
In a larger group, this may involve a whiteboard:

Rough High Level Picture on a Whiteboard

The Project Impact or 'End State'

This is a trickier process, and does not always immediately lend itself to being done graphically.  However, when I ask small groups to create a picture that shows what their project needs to achieve (and not how they will get there) some fantastic pictures are drawn.

Pictures have included flowers, buildings, people (lots of people), amoeba-like creatures, bridges.

As usual, how we got the picture is at least as important than what ended up in the picture.  This is not just about 'painting pictures of the project'.  It is about capturing people's ideas, understanding and hunches about the upcoming project, feeding them back to this audience, and documenting them for future audiences.