When Agile runs into Design Thinking

——The Practice Re-thinking of Driving Agile Transformation by Design Thinking

Author: Bryan Woo

Since 2001 when Agile Manifesto was published, the Agile movement in IT industry has practiced more than ten years. However, there are still countless software teams are struggling for Agile transformation. From 2015, as the innovation and entrepreneurship is getting more and more popular, looks like suddenly, Design Thinking becomes a fashionable technology and skill. Almost everyone in software industry knows it overnight.

But, how to combine the innovative methods of Design Thinking with the engineering practices of Agile software delivery, how to adopt effectively these innovative methods into the real Agile software delivery projects, how to deeply dig “the correct thing” that the Agile practice always highlights with the key methods of focusing on user feeling and experience in Design Thinking, always is a very difficult work. When the innovative problem-solving methods of Design Thinking involves in software team’s agile transformation in our daily development, it is a big challenge for us to learn correctly, adopt effectively the proven methodology, skills of Agile and Design Thinking.

What is Design Thinking?

In a nutshell, Design Thinking is a human-centered,innovative methodology of problem-solving. It derives from the innovative design practices of IDEO, a global famous design and innovation company. In 2008, the CEO of IDEO, Tim Brown posted an article <Design Thinking> on <Harvard Business Review>. He detailedly stated the basic principles, practices, experience of Design Thinking at IDEO company. This article discloses the real values of Design Thinking methodology, lets more people deeply understand what the Design Thinking is.


As same as any other methodology, Design Thinking has itself a suite of Values, Mindsets, Processes and Practices.


The d.school of Stanford University classifies the Design Thinking process as a 5-step process: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test.


However, IDEO company generalizes the Design Thinking process to 3 steps: Inspiration, Ideation and Implementation.


IBM Design Thinking

In the during of many years’ effort and practice on customer service and software development, IBM learns and adopts the proven design thinking mindsets, methods and process, applys them into our daily software development, and build up a new design thinking methodology system, IBM Design Thinking, which has unique characteristics on IT industry and software development. It has special innovative methods, practice, and all of them are human-centered. In 2015, the new version of IBM Design Thinking goes a step further to generalize it to be The Principles, The Keys, and The Loop, which more clearly demonstrates the combination of Design Thinking and Agile.



Design Thinking Adoptions in projects

In the during of customer service and software development, many IBM teams adopts the values, mindsets and practice of IBM Design Thinking in their daily work with different ways. This sharing session will show the real cases of 3 teams which are in different business units. It will share how they merge the key methods and mindsets of design thinking into IBM’ Agile software delivery to deliver the high quality customer values.

One case comes from the customer service. Our designer of service team goes to customer live site, investigates the real problems of customer ask for, and works together with customer (sponsor users) to design the innovative solution for customer. The second case comes from a cloud product team, the designers work together with Agile team to design the excellent user experience for IBM’s a key cloud product. The third case comes from a mainframe development team, in which the team members involves the whole cycle of software delivery, including requirement collection, analysis, design, development, test and deployment. We call them as “a full-stack team”. From these case, you can see how IBM teams adopts the design thinking into our Agile software delivery.


Want to know more? Let meet together at TiD Agile Program Management Forum on July 20. (http://www.tid.org.cn/?c=show&m=view&id=372)

Note: This session will not specially explain what the design thinking is. So if you don’t know more of design thinking, you can refer to the following websites or materials to learn it firstly.

1. Design Kit: http://www.designkit.org/
2. IBM Design Thinking: http://www.ibm.com/design/
3. Chinese book 《IDEO,设计改变一切》 and English book <Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation>, authored by Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO.
4. Or, attend the workshop of design thinking, facilitated by Jin Jin Shi and Ning Song. (http://www.tid.org.cn/?c=show&m=view&id=436)

Author Introduction


Shun Xian (Bryan) Wu, IBM China Labs UXL(User Experience Lab) project manager, IBM China Labs QSE Agile community Chair, CSM, CSPO and PMP. He has 11 year work experience on software testing, automation testing, team management and project management, and has serviced at Microsoft, CA and IBM since 2005. Bryan learns and practices the Scrum since 2010, has lead and directed many Agile teams to learn, adopt the Scrum practice, help many teams transform to be more agile. Bryan had also taught many Agile/Scrum courses and workshops for Agile beginners, practitioners and teams. As a speaker of TiD Agile China 2015, Bryan shared the practice experience of pair programming at IBM China labs. Bryan is also a proactive Agile practitioner, enthusiastic Agile promoter. Currently, Bryan focuses on the areas of Agile Practice Landing, Design Thinking, Software Globalization. He has translated 2 software engineering books.

Welcome to contact and connect to Bryan, learn, study and share the practical, newest technology, skills and practices of IT industry, e.g. Agile, Design Thinking.