The best way to get everyone on the same page

When I was a kid, I drew all the time.  On anything.  (Just ask my parents to move their couch—there is still crayon on that wall behind it!)  While I have no plans to become a professional artist or graphic designer, I’ve carried drawing and sketching into adulthood, and into my work

How, you wonder?

Have you ever had a conversation with someone, perhaps multiple people in a meeting, and then realized halfway through there were actually multiple conversations going on?  As in, none of you were talking about the same thing, even if you were using the same words and convinced that you were?

The best way to get everyone on the same page is to take it literally.

Drawing a picture is the best way to get everyone on the same page.  The challenge of discussing things that aren’t tangible, like a process or where all our data lives, is that everyone is working off of how they think things are related in their brain.  Which is not to say that each person’s version isn’t each true, but it’s hard to tell if they line up with everyone else’s or not.  Without anything tangible, we often assume that everyone else has access to the same information we do and that they’re seeing the same image of the thing in their head that we are. 

Putting it down on paper (or a whiteboard, or an online canvas) for everyone to see at the same time, however, allows people to see where things don’t match up, fill in some gaps, and make corrections.  Most importantly, it’s a prop that helps us make sure we’re all having a conversation about the same thing and know that everyone else is looking at the same thing.

Wait, but I can’t draw!

You doth protest too much.  If you can draw a box and a line, you can draw a diagram.  When you’re using visual communication, it doesn’t matter how it looks as long as people understand it.  You’re not creating a pretty picture; you’re creating clarity.

Interested in learning more?  Here’s a talk I gave, along with Adrienne Figus and Brianna Collins, at the 2022 Nonprofit Technology Conference with on how you can draw a map to clarity: