My Students’ Visual Controls

In a previous blog post, Lean Leader’s Visual Control, I shared with you a couple of visual controls that I created to help leaders learn new ways of thinking and doing things. In this post, I’d like to share with you a few excellent examples of visual controls created by students in my courses as part of their normal work assignments (used with permission).

Visual controls have been an important part of the university courses that I teach for more than a decade. I require students to create a visual control near the end of most courses based solely on the reading, lectures, homework assignments, and discussion from the course. The learning objective is to help them apply what they learned, which is a critically important step in transferring practical knowledge from the classroom to actual use in the workplace. That, in turn, leads to transformation into a more thoughtful and capable person.

The first visual control is by Thomas Hulton for an undergraduate course called “Leading Project Teams” (click to enlarge image). Key objectives of the course are to introduce students to the challenges and opportunities associated with leading project teams and effective leadership behaviors and competencies. Thomas’s visual control consists of key things that he learned in the course that will help make him a better project team leader.


The second and third visual controls are by Jared Stearns and Eno Xhokaxhiu for a graduate course called “Innovative (Lean) Leadership” (click to enlarge images). Key objectives of the the course are to understand leadership processes and leadership process errors and the difference between leadership behaviors that create value and those that are waste. Jared used a balloon metaphor to indicate what helps you succeed in business (balloons) and what hold you back (weights). Eno made a clock that hangs on the wall to remind him of things that he needs to think about and do.



The fourth visual control is by Rokshana Ruma for a graduate course called “Decision Failure Analysis” (click to enlarge image). Key objectives of the course are to learn how to apply formal root cause analysis to management problems and identify practical countermeasures and learn the types of errors commonly made by managers that contribute to flawed decision-making. Rokshana created a visual control in the form of a mouse pad to help reduce the frequency of errors in decision-making.


In addition to what the students create, I give them a visual control that that summarizes the most important things that I taught in the course, and usually give them two other visual controls as well – a pocket card and a pen, all of which are cherished by students. Students laminate the visual control in plastic and tell me years later that they are still using it. Few professors can say they have had that kind of long-lasting positive influence.

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