Chapter 1

The Necessity of Simplicity and the Power of Visuals

Not a single project manager would disagree with the necessity of simplicity or that a “picture is worth a thousand words.”

The difficulty arises in our attempts to find that elusive balance between too little and too much and in crafting just the right visual.

For us project managers, the “detail syndrome” seriously compromises this quest. Yes, the detail syndrome—you have it, and so do I. We have been successful project managers in large measure because we understand and focus on the details, we manage and drive the details, we constantly think about the details, we know which details are critical to our project's success, and we want management to appreciate the complexity of our efforts.

However, our attempts to communicate often include too much detail.

Now before moving on, let me make it clear that this propensity for both detail awareness and management is indeed essential to successful project management, yet it can add confusion to, and dilute the clarity of, our project communication.

Okay, still no debate. Yes, we should communicate simply even when it feels counterintuitive. So how do we know how much is too much? Mick calls this the quest for “serious simplicity.”

Edward R. Tufte is professor emeritus at Yale University, where he taught courses in statistical evidence and information design. In his remarkable book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd ed. (Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press, 2001), ...

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