Design Thinking in Project Management #
Design thinking is a human-centric methodology intended to support solution development for complex and open ended problems. One of the reasons we love Design Thinking, here at Leantime, is that it starts by re-framing problems through the view of human needs.
The phases of Design Thinking include: Empathize –> Define –> Ideate –> Prototype –> Test
Empathizing in Design Thinking #
Another way to think of empathy in Design Thinking is to consider it the “Understanding” step of project management.
In business, we’re often solving a problem – creating solutions that our customers need to be or work better. The Empathize phase helps us to understand the area around the problem.
One unique element of Design Thinking is that it’s a systems approach — knowing that these elements may overlap and run into each other at any phase of the process. It also promotes regular interact with users and customers to better emphasize with their motivations and experiences.
For Leantime, this process is included in our use of the Project Value Canvas and also in our Blueprints sections — particularly in using the Lean Canvas, Business Model Canvas, and Simple Empathy map.
Users have a foundational role in the success of projects/products and it is important that they are never forgotten in the development process. The more we understand what we’re working on or why we’re working towards it, the better.
Empathy in Project Development #
So what about those projects that don’t directly impact a customer or another person? Because we’re looking at empathy as a point of understanding, we can also come back and look at it as understanding the value or purpose to the business. What are we working to accomplish?
The more we understand this and the more the team gets it, the easier it becomes to see the goal at the end and to stay on track.
The goal here is to use the information collected from the empathize stage to develop a human-centric problem statement of the identified problem.
This is where the team will begin to identify features, functions, and ideas about the solution. This step can be done on the Idea Board in Leantime. In the future, we’ll have templates for the Docs section to allow you to better refine requirements.
As information is collected and gathered, you’re one step closer to having the requirements needed to start building out a solution.
In the define stage, we were using our collected data to outline the problem and the conclusion towards the possible solution. The Ideate stage is the brainstorming that sets the wheels in motion for an actualized solution. What do we need? What’s the build time for this feature? Can we build this smarter? Determining what will be done to get to the solution, how to create it, what features it needs to be successful and putting into play the needs identified in previous steps.
Using the Idea Board here, as well, is another way that you can track and monitor the outcomes tied to your team’s brainstorming sessions. You can also use this area to upload any relevant photos or files as needed for examples.
Design thinking has elements that complement to Agile and Lean processes. Iterative steps that create scale down versions of the solution help solidify a design and a product. This step allows visibility of product, team member use / assessment, and user testing. It’s the initial product foundation that can continue to be build upon in the Test step.
To ensure things are working before they are customer facing, you’ll need to test, test, test. Testing is part of the iterative process. It is the refining of a product, new developments, testing and correcting issues as they come up.
Linear and Non-Linear Design Thinking #
When we think of steps, we often think they come in a linear pattern – executing step 1 through 5. For Design thinking, this may be true… sometimes. There will be times when we start with a project that needs pivoting, or the idea comes to us first and we have to go back to validate it before we move to building it. Design thinking is not just focused on human need but also relates to our solution process as humans.
Leantime was set up with this flow in mind.
Using Leantime for Design Thinking as project management #
We’ve incorporated the ability to flow between these elements of Design Thinking. You’ll find these in: To Do management, our project value canvas, empathy mapping & blueprints boards.