What effect can the global quarantine have on seismographs? These instruments follow the Earth’s tectonic plates movements, trying to ignore the noise produced by human activities. But when the many million of Paris, London, and New York stayed in their homes during the lockdown, there was a phenomenal silence.
When human activity stops, a great calm settles in the world. The usual traffic and population movements reduce the seismographs’ ability to detect Earth noises having the same frequency.
Project stages, sales cycles, product evolutions are important events for the life of a business.
However, they are also noises covering the team activities. The team seismograph needs to ignore these cycles, as they reduce our ability to follow the team day by day.
How to visualize your team’s activities then?
Multiple activities divide our days
How could we compare a manager’s workday with a writer’s one? Besides the content of their work, their days are balancing between following their routines and constantly fighting all kinds of interruptions.
Family, colleagues, bank, meetings, or morning traffic, each day is a steeplechase run we all do to advance our personal and professional projects. Our routines, which we protect against these noises, allow us to progress. Even though our routines rarely change, our daily work often does.
Our days look the same, but our work changes every day
Whether it happens in Le Mans, Indianapolis, or Manila, the Formula 1 races follow the same planning:
– teams arrival in the host town
– timing runs
– the race itself
– teams departure for the next race
However, every race is different, not only as scenery but also in the result. We can represent any Formula 1 season on a calendar or as a competition cycle. But if we want to understand the race rhythm at the team’s level, the best is to represent the participants as parallel lanes.
Using different parallel lanes to visualize different actors
Same as the racing competitions, we have our projects which look alike as structure and as the evolution of each cycle:
Where is the team in this cycle?
To find the team’s level, let’s look at what happens at each workday’s level. Let’s put each team member on a horizontal line, following the time axis. Different colors can mark different day phases:
– morning commute
– morning hours
– evening commute
It’s the method used by EveryTimeZone.com to visualize different time zones at the same time. Instead of 24-hour circular clocks, the application uses one line for each time zone. Different colors suggest night and day, while softer shades help us mark mornings, evenings, and working hours.
This model allows not only to easily find the perfect time for a meeting with a customer in Europe but also to understand their context. You want to avoid proposing a meeting too early in the morning, or too late in the evening, in their time zone.
Another example is the chronological lines such as Google Timelines. They allow us to find the right moment for a team meeting, by using different lanes colored for each project.
The most important thing to remember is to show the context of these lines:
– are they showing usual working hours (generic table)?
– are they showing a specific day (specific table)?
– what do we see?
– one line for each person, one color for each project
The horizontal time axis gives the context, while the labels describe each visual line.
The scale is the most important in understanding a visualization
Each line needs a label describing the team member it represents. Depending on the zoom level, we need to use hours, day phases, or weekdays on the horizontal axis.
Morning Noon Dinner Evening
… 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 …
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Lines cannot represent cycles or parallel activities
If people could do multitasking, we should use multiple lines for each person. For example, a line for each project. Happily, most human beings are not able to work with efficiency on many things at the same time (apart from the supertaskers).
Calling tens of prospective customers for hours exists, though. But if we wish to instill trust and better organize our teams, our visualizations need to focus on other indicators, more relevant for our team results.
We must not reduce everything to lines. Curves, charts, and other shapes have their use. They are good to show cyclical events and to see trends. When a notion of quantity comes into the picture, zooming-in or out allows changing the scale levels. But for the team activities, let’s stay at the level of its members.
Team members activities give the team’s rhythm
To represent a team’s activities, trace a line for each of the team members. Use colors to mark the usual working hours and lunch breaks for each person. Also, mark morning and evening commute times. You now have a usual week picture for your team.
For a specific week, use the template above as a template. Add main projects for each person using different colors, on every line. Vertical lines can show important upcoming events – meetings, deliveries, presentations.
Once the quarantine ends, millions of feet will start moving again. Cars will take back the highways. Noise will make seismographs’ job difficult again. Let’s remove the noise from our team pictures by zooming in at people’s level.
Do you want to apply this method to create your Team Activity Template? You can send us your questions via our newsletter, using the form below.