I wonder how many managers have the skills to sketch, draw, paint, etc. It's a paradox that organization design doesn't seem to involve many of the visual skills commonly associated with artists or graphic designers. An article, by Tom Ehrenfeld, Managing to See from Strategy + Business (August 2008 Issue 52) which I just re-read makes the point that:
Visual management has become an essential discipline for managers today. The practice involves communicating with images, organizing and directing work through visual controls, and creating clear graphic depictions of complex ideas-for example, to enable workers to see how their work fits into a value stream flowing directly to customers.
But in very little of the work that I do does visual communication come into play. In fact, I mainly see it in organization charts (which are constructed on Powerpoint and hardly count as visual communication) and in process mapping (constructed on Visio). What I don't see – probably because I don't think of myself as being capable of communicating visually – are sketches of what the organization design would or could look like, and I'm not talking of 'vision' style collages that facilitators of 'blue sky thinking' workshops try to get participants to do.
I have occasionally used graphic artists who attend workshops and visually depict what's going on as people speak – which can be very powerful. But now I'm provoked into thinking maybe if line managers could visually communicate their new organization design it might help them be more innovative in their thinking about the possibilities and help them communicate more effectively to their staff.