Project Management

Design Thinking & Project Management

Design Thinking has emerged as a practical methodology for driving innovative outcomes. This blog aims to explore the intersection between Design Thinking and Project Management and to start a conversation on leveraging Design Thinking for contribution to the Project Management practice.

About this Blog


Recent Posts

Thoughts on The Project Economy

Integrate Design into Your Organization

Insights from the 2019 CEO Outlook

9 Tips for Managing Creative Teams

Top PM Conferences

Thoughts on The Project Economy

We are hearing a lot about "The Project Economy" and how the radical and disruptive changes are evolving the future of work.

While I am not an expert on this topic, nor am I as forward-thinking enough to fully comprehend how the way we work is changing, here are my thoughts around the concept of "The Project Economy"

How do you define the concept of "The Project Economy"?

Advancements in technology and the need for businesses to evolve to meet market and customer demands have propelled organizations to change how we work. The Project Economy is about evolving from routine work of operating the business to one of changing or transforming the business. The primary vehicle for "changing the business" and delivering value to our employees and customers is through projects.

How will "The Project Economy" impact individuals?

Individuals will increasingly work within a project-driven workflow, rather than operational workflows. Initially, these initiatives will be contained within organizations, but the value will scale when projects are applied to cross-organizational efforts in society. Individuals will join and exit cross-discipline project teams as needed. As contributors, individuals will be given increasingly more opportunities to apply their expertise toward initiatives that generate value and benefits.

How will work present itself within organizations?

Work will be a blend of operational and project-based initiatives. Business organizations will retain some structure and governance around standing up projects.

How widespread do you believe this phenomenon to be?

We are just at the beginning of the Project Economy, thus it is not wide-spread. Some industries, such as construction, IT, finance, government, and pharma, are heavily invested in project-based workflows. Other industries (i.e. healthcare, education) are lagging in this evolution.

What has led to organizational shifts within the project management profession?

The migration of work from operational departments into project-driven parts of organizations have led to the rise in importance of project management. This has driven the need for not only more project managers, but better-skilled project leaders. Some organizations are elevating project execution and delivery to an executive level.

Where will the major working changes need to be made for organizations to remain effective and efficient?

Financial and budgeting practices within most organizations are still 19th Century and need to evolve to support more fast-paced and iterative business models that are required of the Project Economy.

In terms of the skill sets focus, what should organizations be working to develop?

Organizations should develop adaptive and growth mindsets within their employees and managers. Leaders will need to be well-versed in change management and project managers will need improved business skills.

What are the risks and the opportunities that could arise in trying to re-educate the workforce about a new set of project management skills?

There are several risks relating to re-training the workforce, here are two:

  • Individuals lacking growth mindsets will want to remain with their tried-and-true methods. There may be fear associated with the new and unfamiliar skills and practices.
  • Not all industries (or types of project work) will require project leaders to "re-educate".

One opportunity: a combination of MBA and PMP skills and expertise will open many doors to success in the Project Economy. 

What does this new way of working mean for project managers and how is this going to change the way they work on an everyday basis?

Project managers will need improved business acumen and skills, and will need to be comfortable with managing change. In addition to delivering stakeholder value, project managers will also become responsible for "changing the business".


Connect with on Linkedin, at, or follow me on Twitter @brucegay

Posted on: February 27, 2020 06:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Integrate Design into Your Organization

In May 2016, I presented a webinar to the PMI Community on the topic "Design Thinking & Project Management"

In this article I address options and recommendations on how to structure User Experience (UX) Design teams within your organization.

Each company or organization is different. How you decide to organize your teams will depend on what works best for your company's goals and culture. The key organizational models for UX Design are: centralized, de-centralized (aka embedded), or hybrid of the two. There are advantages and disadvantages for each model.

1. Centralized Model

In a centralized team model, designers belong to a single unit and are "farmed out" to work on individual projects around the organization. When a particular designer's work is complete they return to the central group and are re-assigned to new work and new projects.


  • Promotes uniform career growth of the design team.
  • Provides emotional benefits of belonging to a group.
  • Advances a coherent design experience across the organization.


  • Reduces design to a purely execution function, not fully integrated into the project life cycle.
  • Designers are inserted into a project that was already underway.
  • Designers would not have participated in problem definition, a key activity that designers are well-suited to lead the team through.
  • Perception of designers as outsiders - "not one of us".

2. Embedded Model

In this model, designers are embedded into multidisciplinary teams and report up through local management. Designers are dedicated to a team and each team is devoted to a distinct aspect of the product or software development.


  • Over time, the team forms a cohesive unit and team members respect the contributions of the designer.
  • The designer builds up specific business or domain knowledge and
  • The designer establishes stronger bonds with key stakeholder (and decision makers) involved in the project.


  • Designers have no sense of design community for support, they could become lonely.
  • Designers work on their own, likely not collaborating with other designers within the organization.
  • Team members are non-designers who do not speak the same professional language. 

3.  Hybrid Model

From recent experiences, we overcame the disadvantages of the two previous models by evolving a hybrid model with both embedded and centralized attributes. We found that having UX designers embedded in the development teams, but also members of a design group within the organization, worked best. The result had the combined advantages from both models.

In the hybrid model, there is a degree of commitment and engagement desired from the embedded designers assigned to specific projects. In this case, the designer understands the full life cycle and is deeply wedded to the business or domain. Having a centralized reporting structure lets designers to be managed by other designers. This allows for peer design, knowledge sharing across projects and quickly ramping up on a project.


I am passionate about evangelizing Design within the Project Management community. I welcome any feedback or comments on this article. 

Connect with me on Linkedin or follow me on Twitter @brucegay

Posted on: February 16, 2020 11:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Insights from the 2019 CEO Outlook

KPMG released their U.S. CEO Outlook 2019 report with survey results from 400 U.S. CEOs. Key Findings from the survey provided some very relevant insights for Project Leaders who want to grow in their careers and remain on the forefront of technical, cultural, and economic change. I decided to turn the insights into an infographic which can be downloaded here: 

-->  CEO Outlook and Insights for PMs

You can read the full KPMG CEO Outlook report here:

Summary of the Key Findings:



Key Finding: CEOs reported a positive outlook and tempered optimism. A majority of U.S. CEOs (81 percent) plan to pursue inorganic growth, favoring strategic alliances and M&A.

Actions you can take based on this finding:

  • Build out networking skills
  • Build competency in organizational change management
  • Cross-train on Business Analysis skills

Key Finding: CEOs have more realistic expectations of AI implementation and are becoming more enthused about AI-driven decisions.

Actions you can take:

  • Become more versed in AI terminology, its applications, and AI’s limitations and risks
  • Identify and network with AI vendors for business partnerships and knowledge sharing

Key Finding: Agility is a critical capability and requires innovation maturity. Sixty-three percent (63%) expressed the need to improve innovation processes and execution in the next three years.

Actions you can take:

  • Research and become more informed on innovation models
  • Become an “expert” at your organization’s innovation process
  • Help executives understand the cultural changes needed for agility success

Key Finding: Investment in tech is prioritized over people. When asked to make a point-blank choice between investing in technology or people, more than two-thirds of CEOs chose technology.

Actions you can take:

  • Leverage the fact that capital budgets for technology may be easier to secure sign-off than for new job openings
  • Help executives understand risks inherent in trade-off between people vs. technology
  • Position yourself to manage technology change

Key Finding: Companies are actively disrupting their sectors. Seventy-six percent (76%) noted that their growth relies on their ability to challenge and disrupt any business norm.

Actions you can take:

  • Look outside your industry for trends that can help catapult your organization into a new growth area
  • Help team members become more customer-centric to identity unmet customer needs or opportunities

Key Finding: Cyber security risk is slowly being seen as a top organizational risk. CEOs no longer look at cyber risk as a separate IT topic and are embedding cyber in all technology-fueled growth decisions. Only a minority (16 percent) point to cyber security risk itself as their organization’s top threat.

Actions you can take:

  • If your organization has a CISO (chief information security officer), become educated on his/her needs as well as the vision and strategy that they are laying down at your organization
  • Become more versed in cyber security risks and how they relate to you and your team's work

Key Finding: ‚ÄčOrganization want to align policies to reflect the values of their customers. Seventy-seven percent (77%) of U.S. CEOs believe that they could significantly improve their understanding of their customers. Eight-one percent (81%) feel it is their personal responsibility to ensure that their organization’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policies reflect the values of their customers.

Actions you can take:

  • Advocate funding and opportunities for your teams to engage with customers to better understand their values and needs
  • Help your teams become more customer-centric


Again, a copy of the infographic can be downloaded here: CEO Outlook and Insights for PMs

Posted on: August 03, 2019 09:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

9 Tips for Managing Creative Teams

Project Managers need to balance process rigor and process with allowing teams the time and space to do their best work. Here are nine (9) tips and lessons learned for managing creative teams.

1) Shield your team from as much administrative work as possible. Keep your team focused on the most valuable tasks and where they can be most productive.

2) Train your team in creative problem-solving techniques.

3) Allocate time for new ideas to emerge. Try not to hold your team to unreasonable and arbitrary schedules and deadlines. 

4) Let your team do their job without the constant check-ins and oversight. Avoid micro-management!

5) Stress the importance of open communication. 

6) Encourage your team to utilize you as an escalation point.

7) Allow exploration to happen and encourage the team to share ‘learnings’ across all disciplines. Promote interdisciplinary collaboration.

8) Keep challenging the way your team approaches their work. Encourage team members to keep looking anew at the way they approach their work.

9) And most importantly — tolerate risk-taking. It is inevitable with design thinking and agile models now being used on projects. Foster a team environment where failure is a learning opportunity, not something that would limit one’s career.


In summary, make space for creativity, investigation, and failure on your team.

Posted on: July 27, 2019 07:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Big Bang Delivery is Dead

ASSERTION: The era of the big bang transformation and delivery is dead. Rapid, hybrid solution delivery is ascendant and necessary.

- Do you agree or disagree?


Given the rapid pace of technology and business disruption, most organizations are investing heavily just to keep up with the changes. What differentiates the leaders from the laggards in addressing this disruption is how they organize their business to execute against strategy.

We can no longer use the model of monolithic programs that go on for 2-3 years. Organizations find that what they set out to do or solve at the beginning is not what they will finish doing.

In the current business environment, traditional delivery models are now looking too rigid and organizations are locked into investments that often miss the mark. Leading organizations are using rapid delivery cycles that mobilize a project very quickly, aiming to release the product into market or to customers with minimum investment.


- How does role of the Project Manager change with this trend?

- How does the role of the PMO change?

- Does the approach to portfolio management need to adjust?


Posted on: June 12, 2019 06:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

"I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have. "

- Thomas Jefferson