Agile Visual Planning: Supporting Innovation and Action

strategic visioning May 30, 2013


Agile visual planning empowers both individual leadership and group creativity—a formula for good results for organizations that employ it.

The concept of agile planning is inspired by agile software development, a method of providing versions that are “just good enough” to engage a user base—then iterating through ever more complete and polished releases that reflect real user experience.

To get going, propose a concept, a direction, or a generative idea; then head in that direction. Your early iteration will become a springboard for a more developed version.

Visual Facilitation of an Agile Process

To keep everyone’s attention focused on the matter at hand, deploy visual facilitation and other visualization tools. Using these processes, groups are able to:

• Develop ideas rapidly, visually, and collaboratively

• See themes and patterns of insight and convergence

• Do iterative visualization of concepts over time










Many sticky-note input processes can be used to iterate versions of large murals. Since modern inkjet printers can easily create murals 4 feet by 12 to 24 feet in length, fairly large groups can be involved in helping to evolve the plans.

These agile methods are especially useful in large change processes where lots of stakeholders need to buy into the process.

Learn Through Stakeholder Engagement

In an agile process, getting out Version 1.0 on time is a greater priority than doing it 100% perfectly. Engagement and buy-in are valued over the polish of a “perfected” product.

Once the process yields something that is good enough to communicate, the real art is to get it out to key stakeholders, inviting them to help co-evolve the product. This is where entrepreneurial minds excel. They know the long-term viability of a plan depends on learning through direct engagement and continuous adaptation.

Five Core Practices for Agile Processes

1. Fresh-Watching: The term “fresh-watching”, used by our Business Model Inc. partners in Amsterdam, refers to a process of intentionally searching for new ideas and fishing the best out of the many. Agile teams are on the lookout for useful ideas and don’t spend a lot of energy on things that are unlikely to work. The ideas that resonate widely are the ones that get tested.

2. Collaborative Engagement: A skilled visual facilitator knows how to use sticky notes in various idea-sharing ways. Some involve collecting and organizing hundreds of suggestions in a bottom-up process. Others involve sticky notes and structured graphic templates used in sequence to ensure fresh insights are generated.

3. Vision and Strategy: Agile planning has taken root in vision and strategy development because buy-in and continuous adjustment are required in a highly dynamic marketplace. The constraints within an agile-planning process accelerate ideation. For example, Silicon Valley’s planning style, often termed a “ready, fire, steer” process, brings rapid learning and adaptation in the service of an overarching direction and goal.

4. Implementation Support: Agile planning includes follow-through from ideation sessions. Agile teams know how to prepare meeting output that is designed to garner good input from others to sustain the agile process. This is handled by doing versions of large graphic murals such as Grove Storymaps. Large murals allow people to interact with the ideas differently than with presentation slides.

5. Facilitating Virtual Collaboration: This way of working also involves knowing how to combine new media and social networking with visualization to work with ideas across time and space. A complementary competency is learning to create a strong “container” for agile planning so that those involved do not have to worry about meeting frequency, documentation, or critical deadlines.

Go Agile, Get Traction

Visualization tools make it easy to create words, pictures, and even videos of new ideas. In the hands of a visual facilitator, these become the means for gathering rich input and evolving new and better versions of plans, developing them over time as living documents.

As the agile practices of the new technologies continue to inform the more traditional practices of strategy formation and planning, agile visual planning is emerging as a potent way to move from insight to action, both within individual teams and throughout the organization.



Learn more about The Grove’s Organization Change services, including agile visual planning, change team facilitation, and strategic rollouts. To discuss your organization’s situation and needs, email [email protected], or call 415-561-2500 ext. 1.


See also:

1. David Sibbet, VISUAL LEADERS: New Tools for Visioning, Management, & Organization Change, by David Sibbet (John Wiley & Sons, 2013)

2. Ibid, VISUAL TEAMS: Graphic Tools for Commitment, Innovation, & High Performance, by David Sibbet (John Wiley & Sons, 2011)

3. Ibid, VISUAL MEETINGS: How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity (John Wiley & Sons, 2010)

4. Dave Gray, Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers (O’Reilly Media, 2010)

5. Alexander Osterwalder, Business Model Generation (John Wiley & Sons, 2010)

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