Before & After Design Thinking

Posted On March 29, 2019
By Peter Haid

It’s not uncommon that I hear clients ask for clarity around what Design Thinking is all about. Some of them hear the buzzword and leave it at that, while others feel like it’s an itch they have to scratch. What compounds the confusion even further is that many folks have already added Journey Mapping and Agile to their toolkits. Where do all of these things fit together!? My question back to them is pretty snarky: “Would you like to please your Chief Customer Officer, Chief Technology Officer, or Chief Product Officer?”

It’s a trick question, of course, but when these different methodologies kick off, they can more comfortably align within different parts of the organization. However, I recently saw a case where a client did a nice job weaving the work together. It’s worth a closer look.

Design Thinking, in a very small (and probably unfair) nutshell, is about building empathy for the consumer in order to define a clear problem statement followed by solution prototyping. These concepts regularly take root in the product teams. Agile, in a nutshell, is a way of approaching project management so that teams create less work that will need to be redone, so customers will see value sooner. (Grab your popcorn and watch an Agile team cringe when you say the words “waterfall development” to them.)

IT shops usually make the move to Agile first. Journey Mapping methods create a visual display of touchpoints, customer perception, and emotions when interacting with the organization across the relationship. They are used to tell the customer’s story to employees and drive action plans, and they, usually, start within the Customer Experience teams.

These can all feel somewhat similar because 1) they are somewhat loose in definition; 2) they orient around customer value; and 3) they can sweep through an enterprise like a weed. Yes, they can bleed into each other, and yes, each organization launches them with slight variations. However, a large banking organization with whom we worked took caution with these to weave them together.

Design Thinking has a five-step process: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. Given enough time staring at this, you’ll notice that Journey Mapping is very similar to Empathize (albeit a bit more encompassing) because it is so focused on customer perception and emotions. Further, the concepts for Prototype and Testing are perfect partners to the Agile methods. Agile is a constant circle of taking bite-size pieces of a project, iterating the solution, delivering the solution (even a small one), and then roping feedback into the next cycle.

Our client had physical “pods” of Agile teams (aligned to business units) who were largely IT focused but brought in business stakeholders. They also had a Journey Mapping program with a few complete journeys, and they were training key people on Design Thinking. In the middle of the training, they put the brakes on it to back up and link them all together. With the coordination of the leadership (Remember the CCO, CTO, and CPO?) the chain was fully linked: Journey Mapping first (understand/empathize with the customer), then Defining and Ideating from the Design Thinking process, creating a prototype, and finally iterating the solution into the market with Agile. Here’s the full chain:
Journey Map -> Define -> Ideate -> Prototype -> Deliver with Agile.

The outcome? They were able to bring 13,000 employees into a common (and complete!) way of viewing business transformation. Projects have made it through the chain, and the chain is looping back on itself, as designed.

If your organization is struggling because you have launched all three concepts, partially launched a couple, or seek to scratch the itch, please take the time to connect them for true efficiency. If you don’t, you may find yourself looking for the Roundup to kill a rogue methodology or the fruits of your labor may become rotten. Strativity has helped many organizations find solutions to issues like these with our change management program and this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you’d like a hand to hold or a shoulder to cry on, please reach out to us for a conversation.