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The Role of Design Thinking in Agile Environments

The Role of Design Thinking in Agile Environments

Many organizations have leaned into Agile Software Development because it allows software engineers to respond to the changing landscape of the solution. Undoubtedly, this approach is more flexible and nimble than Waterfall.

While Agile is a strong step forward in terms of delivering relevant features, the Agile method has some potential drawbacks. Agile can turn into an automated process, with development teams encouraged to “complete their tasks” for the sake of getting them done instead of for the sake of improving the user experience. Sticky notes are moved to the “completed” column on the task board, without the team asking the larger questions that could make or break a feature’s ultimate success: “Are users really going to use this feature?” “How and why are people going to use this feature?” Most importantly: “Do our users even need or want this?”

Going through the product release motions and not answering these questions can result in a pitfall we’ve seen time and time again: teams thinking they are doing Agile, but in reality they are just doing faster Waterfall. The result can be wasted effort on developing features that aren’t necessary or desirable for users.

Design Thinking and Agile—A Match Made in User Heaven

In his article, “Faster software release cycles push Design Thinking into the Agile camp” Joe McKendrick outlines the similarities between Design Thinking and Agile and summarizes how the two approaches are mutually-beneficial. McKendrick highlights the following similarities between the two fields.

Similarities between Design Thinking and Agile

• Both seek input from beyond the team doing the work.
• Both embrace iteration and ongoing refinement.
• Both call for a healthy culture of empathy and empowerment in the team.

Additionally, the Agile Manifesto embodies many software development principles that are also hallmarks of Design Thinking. For example, the Manifesto’s core values include prioritizing individuals and interactions, customer collaboration, and responding to change. These values and many others reflect the core values of Design Thinking, such as empathizing with the customer, co-creating solutions with the customer, and rapid iteration and prototyping of solutions.

Many Agile values and principles reflect the “human-centered design” approaches Design Thinking is famous for. But in a fast-paced software development cycle, it can be difficult to keep the how and why of a user’s behavior in mind all the time.

Mindhatch’s Approach to Design Thinking in an Agile Environment

Mindhatch helps Agile teams use Design Thinking methods and tools to develop features that solve the most pressing customer needs. We use our Design Thinking and Agile ScrumMaster expertise to help put the user at the center of your work in a way that delivers game changing features and reduces wasted effort. We do this in several ways:

Design Thinking Workshop for Agile Practitioners

Mindhatch teaches your team the fundamentals of Design Thinking, emphasizing the deployment of the right research tools to better understand your users and build responsive solutions.

Design Thinking Consulting for Agile

Mindhatch conducts user research using Design Thinking methods and tools and brings you the most high-value and actionable user insights. Mindhatch then works with the team to help translate those insights in to viable and desirable features.

Design Thinking Immersion for Agile

Mindhatch joins your Agile team and acts as a Design Thinking coach and user advocate, ensuring your team delivers only the most high-value features.


Could your Agile Team or project use a dose of Design Thinking?

Unfortunately, many Agile software development teams fall into the trap of merely doing faster Waterfall at the expense of user needs and behaviors.

If your team has fallen into this trap, contact Mindhatch to learn how you can use Design Thinking in your Agile practice to satisfy and delight your users.

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