The success of my book Visual Meetings brought publisher John Wiley & Sons back for a “sequel,” and I recently finished Visual Teams: Graphic Tools for Commitment, Innovation, & High Performance in time for a fall launch. Visual Teams builds on the concepts covered in Visual Meetings (top 5% of all business books during 2010) and will be available in stores October 11.

For those of you familiar with the Drexler/Sibbet Team Performance Model® (TPM) you will notice in the title the key words for the right side of the model—the pathway to high performance. Visual Teams is built around the idea that if teams learn to use visual meetings and other visualization methods across the full arc of their work, they will be much more productive, creative, and influential in their organizations. The book also uses visual language to unpack the TPM itself, and delves a little deeper into its theoretical underpinnings, most notably Arthur M. Young’s Theory of Process.

I organized this book around the TPM. Initial chapters make the case for teams working like designers—experimenting, creating prototypes, and using visualization to test ideas and share information and mental models. I’ve pulled forward a full treatment of the TPM, adding what visual teams would do to handle each stage of the model. I have a special section for team leaders and how they can manage the four flows of attention, energy, information and operations on their teams—building on our work with Agilent Technologies for its first-line manager training, in which The Grove’s Team Leader Guide was a source book for many years.

The next section of Visual Teams reviews the stages of team development with a chapter on each of the core seven challenges any team faces. Each chapter is focused on a client story that illustrates how a visual team was able to handle this stage very well. I tell the stories of the DLR Group and how it used the Graphic Gameplan Graphic Guide® to move a collegial organization to an action-based organization. I share examples from Otis Spunkmeyer as a classic story of using visual teams for strategy implementation. The RE-AMP Infrastructure Team is an example of a high-performance team, and I share the tools used on that project. I end with stories of National Semiconductor, Agilent, and HP as examples of visual teams involved in the renewal stage of the TPM.

Following the practical stories is a section on how you can introduce visual teams to your organization. I end with a chapter that I must confess is a favorite—using new graphics to explain the Theory of Process, the underlying framework of the TPM. A point I make continuously is that in a time of more and more virtual communication, our spoken language needs the compliment of visual language to handle more complex mental models, and that shared mental models are a key to organizational performance.

The final section goes in depth about new technologies for communication, especially mobile technologies, and how visual teams can use these tools. I frame the work with the story of the Institute for the Future’s Groupware User’s Project in the 1990s, in which The Grove and IFTF were among the first to define the now widespread suite of collaboration tools. This project foreshadowed many of the promises and challenges of our times. But it quickly takes us forward to the realms of social media, smart phones, and tablet computing and how visual teams can benefit from these new tools.

Although the TPM is relevant to any kind of team, most of Visual Teams is focused squarely on how teams can use visual tools and visual methods. I deal only lightly with such common problems as interpersonal conflict and situational leadership—critical competencies for teams in addition to being visual. The resource section points to the most popular sources of guidance for teamwork, in general. Two Coro Fellows helped me pull together a fairly comprehensive bibliography and set of linked resources to the larger world of team thinking.

As was the case with Visual Meetings, John Wiley & Sons let me design the book, so every page has graphic examples and sidebar stories that bring my points to life. It was very satisfying to write, and to know that this important material will be available to an emerging generation of consultants, team leaders, and their teams.

I might add that Wiley has already invited a proposal for book three in the series. Stay tuned.


Click here to order Visual Teams.