On the use of Visual planning in teams -Exploring sticky notes in product development
This thesis investigates Visual planning, a method used in teams for planning and controlling product development projects. Cross-functional teams have shown to be effective at accelerating product development, but also make it difficult to coordinate the work and puts high demands on communication and knowledge exchange. Literature indicates that Visual planning might be a useful method to facilitate communication and knowledge exchange in product development teams. However, the research is still in its infancy and description of benefits, limitations and a clear definition of the method is lacking. Due to these early stages of research on the method, the purpose of this thesis is to define visual planning in product development. This purpose is adressed through examining current literature on Visual planning and product development through the lens of the resource-based view of the firm. The empirical data is based on a case study approach where data has been collected throughout three different studies.
Visual planning consists of two components, where a board visualizing the team’s tasks is combined with short and frequent meetings. At the board, detailed planning and control of product development projects is done through color-coded artifacts such as sticky notes, representing task-related information. The method facilitates knowledge transfer through that it becomes a “forum” for task-related communication. Moreover, Visual planning seems to facilitate frequent, task related cross-functional team communication through these meetings and decentralization of decision-making trough the autonomy of workflow planning. There are also limitations with Visual planning the method related to amount of management complexity, co-location, size of the team using it and the physical limitations of the board itself compared to software tools.
The method is defined as “Visual planning is a method used by a team to plan and control the team’s progress through the use of physical representations of tasks in combination with frequent and interactive meetings”
Earlier literature on the method lacks consensus, and does not address the limitations of Visual planning. I have attempted to contribute to the emerging literature on Visual planning through both defining the content and limitations of the method itself and finding the benefits facilitated by the method that are important to product development.