Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Event Horizons

I believe in communicating graphically and out loud whenever possible. This is not always immediately grasped by those who understand communication as "words". It isn't. One very common example of this are event horizons.

An event horizon is defined by the dictionary as:

event horizon. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/event horizon

When I describe it to people, I tell them it's:
An event that, although the timing is potentially unknown or uncontrollable, will change everything around it.

I use this all the time to share with people how key events are going to impact them, and so I want to share it with you.

In its graphical form, they look like the dotted line here:

It's worth noting that event horizons are vastly different from critical paths. In critical paths, what you're communicating is the sequence of events, their importance to the overall plan, their cost, both relative and absolute, and several other things (can you tell I like that method? )

With an event horizon, what you're doing is communicating grahpically to someone the decisions that will be impacted by something outside of their flow. This isn't very well handled by the traditional critical path, which is a series of linked events. Instead, you have to start thinking graphically. For example, if you add color to your critical path, during the planning phase, that is, before color is used to communicate status, then you can begin to get an idea of how you might approximate this.

For me, the big difference is that the event horizon in and of itself, can be an event generator.

For example:

Since you can't control or sometimes even plan for the things/people/places/events/articles/mishaps/synchronicities that spawn event horizons, you can't fit that event *neatly* into a project plan.

Yes, I know you can fit them in, but I'm saying *neatly*, not "at all". There's a big difference. Event Horizons, as I'm using the term today, are the 1% chance game changers - the 100 year floods, so to speak.

My graphical model is designed to quickly communicate to people how significantly changed the world on the other side of that event looks.