It's a supergraphic:
Supergraphics are interpreted by the viewer on their own terms. Allow an audience to absorb the information at their own rate. Sure, you may wish to call attention to certain details, that’s why you’re in front of them, let the audience come to their own conclusions and this can generate fruitful discussion during or following your talk.
The best example of a supergraphic is Napoleon's War of 1812 march to Moscow by Charles Joseph Minard. It's great for a number of reasons: it's high resolution, multi-variate, indicates causality between variables, and uses great graphic design. With this map as our guide, and advice from Tufte gleaned during one of his excellent seminars (students are only $200!), the Square Root team attempted to create our own, as shown above.
Reading the Poster
The X-axis shows time logarithmically spread to show the relative effort spent in each semester.
The Y-axis shows team morale. Morale is really trust as measured using our regular team dysfunctional surveys. These surveys were taken from Patrick Lencioni's The Five Dysfunctions of a Team in which trust forms the basis of a well-functioning team.
The thickness of the line shows team maturity. Maturity was measured through our team reflection process in which we asked three simple questions. "Is the process documented?" "Is the team following the documented process?" "Is the process working for the team?" Quantitative answers to these questions let us get a notional idea of maturity and qualitative responses helped us to improve as a team.
The branching tributaries or excursions, leaving the main trunk of the graph show processes that the team was able to execute independently of other processes. This is another way of thinking about maturity. For example, by the end of the summer the team had matured such that we could tweak individual processes without affecting other processes.
The annotations on the graph show what the team decided were the most critical moments of our project. Critical moments are events which had a significant and immediate impact on the team in some way. You can read about many of the stories behind the critical moments on this blog.
Analyzing our data as a supergraphic allowed the team to see things that we would not have seen otherwise, to think about and reflect on the project in a way that no one else has thought about it. Some interesting things that can be seen in the graphic:
- The forming, storming, norming, and performing team stages are clearly visible
- The effects of better visibility on morale (we were blissfully ignorant in the fall)
- even negative things can be a positive as was the case in our planning breakdown
- Commitment to process can lead to big pay-offs
- Small changes can have a huge impact on a team and the changes should be made.
In addition, it just plain looks awesome.
There were two big messages that we wanted people who read our poster to take away.
First, there is no single right answer except "it depends." We designed our poster so you can take away messages that are meaningful to you. As you can see on this blog, every member of the team has taken away different ideas from the studio experience. The poster was meant to reflect this by making it easier to share advice on a wide range of topics, all of which will be interesting to someone but not all to the same person. Tufte puts it best: create an image which allows readers to explore the data using their own cognitive style.
Second, since there is no single right answer and no best way of doing things, experimentation is the key to success. The studio environment is an ideal time for experimentation. Success or failure is not nearly as important as understanding why you succeeded or failed.
Enjoy exploring the data. If you have questions, please feel free to read through our blog or any other data in our project archive. If you have questions, don't hesitate to get in touch.
[Edit: We've got video of the presentation too!]