Our Point of View

Visualization in Work Management: How Seeing is Believing and Achieving

Team at Kanban board

Why does visualization help individuals and teams increase their efficiency, improve collaboration, and make better decisions, even in the face of uncertainty? Let’s take a look at the science behind visualization’s prowess, as well as some examples of where visualization is being used to achieve these benefits.

The Science and Psychology Behind Visualization

According to a study commissioned by 3M at the University of Minnesota, the brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than textual information. A later study at the same lab indicated that visuals enhance presentations: those using visual aids were “43 percent more persuasive” than those without.

It should not be surprising that approximately 65% of the population, men and women, are visual learners. It has also been established that visual learners learn best when the visual information is dynamic rather than static.

Visual information also helps people make better decisions in the face of uncertainty. According to a 2014 study, “Performance was more accurate when uncertainty was displayed spatially.” They went on to say that the effect was due to reduced mental effort – it takes less mental energy to process complex information when it is represented visually.

Benefits of Visualization

There are many benefits of visualization. Here are a few:

Improved Clarity and Understanding of Complex Information: Visualization significantly enhances the clarity and comprehension of complex data and processes. When information is presented visually, it becomes easier to identify patterns, relationships, and trends that might be missed in text-based formats. For instance, visual tools like flowcharts, mind maps, and infographics can break down intricate concepts into more digestible, easily understood segments. This clarity is particularly beneficial in applications dealing with large amounts of data or complex systems, as it helps in simplifying the decision-making process by presenting information in a more approachable and intuitive manner.

Enhanced Team Collaboration and Communication: Visual management tools can significantly improve team collaboration and communication. By coordinating around a common visual reference, team members can better align on goals, processes, and progress. For example, a Kanban board visually displays work in progress, tasks completed, and future assignments, making it easier for teams to coordinate efforts and manage workload. This visual representation ensures that everyone is on the same page, reducing misunderstandings and enhancing the efficiency of team interactions. Moreover, visual tools can bridge language and cultural barriers in diverse teams, providing a universal language for project management and collaboration.

Increased Engagement and Motivation among Team Members: Visual tools tend to be more engaging than traditional text-based documents. They can make the process of tracking progress and achievements more satisfying and motivating. For instance, seeing a task move from ‘In Progress’ to ‘Completed’ on a visual board can provide a sense of accomplishment. Additionally, visual representations can clarify goals and milestones, fostering a sense of purpose and direction. This clarity and engagement can lead to increased motivation as team members better understand their role in the bigger picture and see tangible evidence of their contributions.

Case Studies

A 2013 case study published in the International Journal of Production Research documented the implementation of visual management tools in a manufacturing company. The study reported a significant reduction in lead times, improved product quality, and increased overall production efficiency.

In another study at BBC Worldwide, lead time to deliver software improved by 37%, consistency of delivery rose by 47%, and defects reported by customers fell by 24% when the teams used visual management techniques (Kanban) compared to traditional methods. Another statement from this same study: “altering the focus to deliver the highest value, but in as small as possible features, the reduced size would make the complexity easier to handle. This “divide and rule” strategy in effect reduced the complexity of each unit of software being delivered.”

Improvements due to visualization are not limited to software development or manufacturing, where Kanban originated. Electronic visibility boards have been used to improve patient quality, safety, and workflow in Pediatric Hospital ICUs.

Q2Pay, a payments processor and banking portal, implemented visual management (Kanban) in a variety of departments, including marketing. They reported a number of benefits, including improved overall flow, resulting in faster completion of work, and a stronger and more engaging working culture.


Both science and experience (case studies) indicate that visual management of work helps teams deliver work faster, enhance team collaboration and communication, deal with uncertainty, and increase engagement and motivation. If you apply visual management tools, including Kanban, to your marketing work, you are likely to increase your productivity, enhance communication, and feel more motivated by your work. You might even feel less overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do.

Why wouldn’t you take a visual approach to managing your work?