"Getting the right
things done, together."
Lean, Engagement, Agile & Design
These four popular approaches fundamentally are about dealing better with uncertainty in a complex environment. Yet we will need to move beyond perceiving these approaches as just process and move towards there underlying abilities and mindsets.
The ideas of Agile are truly great. Unfortunately it’s the way it has been simplified and rolled that often leads to disappointments. And when people refer to Lean, the conversation often ends at process optimization, waste reduction and quality-control. If you reduce it to just that, we will miss so much of what the Lean mindset offers.
Also Design Thinking is hailed as to do the trick, in five steps you will have a breaktrough design?! Yet even the notion of 'steps' is already limiting the capabilities of this approach.
At the same time, people do have a real need to change, but they get stuck following rules or process without really understanding why. Most of these tools are introduced at moments where there is not just a need for change, moreover there is a need to transform. And thus is the WHY as importante as the HOW.
While Design Thinking is how we explore and solve problems, together; Lean is a framework for testing our beliefs and learning our way to the right outcomes; Agile is how we adapt to changing conditions, continously. Each of these approaches have a strong benefit for contemporary organizations, even more when they are implemented as a intertwined set of mindsets.
Design Thinking is about ability and learning. Carissa Carter, head of teaching at Stanford Design School, brilliantly describes some of the abilities that make designers great.Abilities like dealing with ambiguity, empathetic learning, synthesis, and experimentation, among others. A designer’s ability to make meaning, frame a problem and explore potential solutions are key. Donald Norman, the author of The Design of Everyday Things, describes a designer’s discontent with the first idea. Ask yourself, when was the last time that your first idea was your best idea? Meaning and new ideas emerge when we explore things. Design Thinking is simply how we explore those problems and solutions. Everyone designs, whether it’s conscious or not. If you’re solving a problem, you’re designing a solution. Design Thinking is a mindset that helps us do it better.
Lean started out as a response to scientific management practices in manufacturing. Organisations sought efficiency through processes, rules, and procedures and management was mostly about control. But in modern business, control is a falsehood. Things are too complex, too unpredictable, and too dynamic to be controlled. Lean offers a different mindset for managing any system of work. It’s fundamentally about exploring uncertainty, making decisions by experimenting and learning and empowering people who are closest to the work to decide how best to achieve desired outcomes. Lean says be adaptive, not predictive.
Agile is related to Lean. The differences are mostly about what these mindsets are applied to, and how. In conditions of high uncertainty, Agile offers ways to build software that is dynamic and can adapt to change. This isn’t just about pivoting. It’s also about scaling and evolving solutions over time. If we accept that today’s solution will be different from tomorrow’s, then we should focus on meeting our immediate needs in a way that doesn’t constrain our ability to respond when things change later. The heart of Agile is adapting gracefully to changing needs with software.