Design Thinking & Project Management

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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.

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What Goes on in the Mind of a Project Manager?

What do Project Managers do all day??

What Goes on in the Mind of a Project Manager?

Have you ever stopped to think about the common characteristics you have with other Project Managers? In order to explain these to an audience of non-project managers, I generated a user persona to explain the goals, motivations, mindsets, and pain points of Project Managers.

The persona I generated is based off of interviews Aurora Melchor, a UX Designer, conducted with her team as well as additional data points that I added from my circle of colleagues.

GOALS: Keep everyone happy; Deliver value and project success; Predictability

MOTIVATIONS: Wants interesting, fun, and challenging work; Recognition and promotion

MINDSET: Likes problem-solving; Feels the urgency to “get stuff done”; Driven by accomplishment; Often does well “riding the wave” of change

PAIN POINTS: “My day is a fractured experience!”; Inadequate planning and poor estimates; Manual repetitive work across multiple applications; Having to do more with less; Risk, complexity, and uncertainty has increased (VUCA)

 

Let me know your feedback on this representation of a Project Manager.

 - What insights do you draw from the persona?

 - What can non-Project Managers learn from this persona?

 - Is there additional information that you recommend to include in the persona?

Connect with me here on Linkedin, at www.brucegay.com, or follow me on Twitter @brucegay

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Posted on: July 11, 2019 09:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Design Thinking Resources for Project Managers

"Evolve or be Disrupted"

The pace of change and disruption in the business environment demands that Project Managers acquire and grow new skills. Indeed, we need new tools and models to operate in a more flexible, discovery-driven world. To be successful, our profession needs to look past the rigor and discipline of managing projects and embrace agility and collaboration, thinking about customers first, innovation and adaptive leadership. Design Thinking has emerged as a successful methodology that organizations use to approach problem-solving and delivery of innovative solutions that delight their customers.

This article provides an updated list of resources that Project Managers (and others) can use to become more knowledgeable on Design Thinking. (In no particular order.)

IDEO

IDEO (pronounced "eye-dee-oh") an international design and consulting firm headquartered in Palo Alto, California, has been a leading proponent of applying design thinking methodology to design products, services, environments, and digital experiences.

Frog Design

Frog is global product strategy and design firm founded in Germany and currently headquartered in San Francisco, California. Frog has developed and made available a "Collective Action Toolkit" that helps put design-thinking tools into the hands of local change agents to transform their communities. While this toolkit is more geared to solving community problems, the tools and methods can be applied to problem-solving in the government and business sectors.

Stanford d.school

If there is one place to start learning more about Design Thinking, I would highly recommend the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, more commonly known as the "d.school." The d.school provides an excellent "Virtual Crash Course on Design Thinking" on their website.

Luma Institute

The LUMA Institute provides training programs for learning and applying key practices of human-centered design. Their "Looking, Understanding, Making" approach is very accessible to average people who may not necessarily think of themselves as "innovators". 

Google Ventures (GV)

GV has developed a 5-day process for tackling business questions through design, prototyping, and testing of ideas with customers. A guide for "The Design Sprint" is laid out nicely at their website.

IBM Design Thinking

IBM Design Thinking is billed as a scalable framework to help teams understand and deliver. At the heart of this framework is a is a set of behaviors focused on discovering users’ needs and envisioning a better future, called the "Loop." The Loop is a continuous cycle of observing, reflecting and making.

Interaction Design Foundation

The Interaction Design Foundation is a 16-year-old nonprofit community, founded in Denmark, whose aim is to lower the cost of design education. IDF offers an extensive library of design-related textbooks and comprehensive instructor-led online courses.

Canva

Canva is a graphic-design tool website, that uses a drag-and-drop format and provides access to over a million photographs, graphics, and fonts. In 2014, the Canva team unveiled the Canva Design School; a new platform, workshop series and teacher resource hub designed to increase the world’s visual literacy.

Design Council UK

Design Council’s stated purpose is to make life better by design. It’s mission is to champion great design that improves lives and makes things better. The Design Council aims to harness design to drive business growth and improve service efficiency, design practical solutions to complex problems, create better, more sustainable places, and to lead and share the latest thinking on design.

University of Copenhagen's Innovation Toolbox

The aim of the innovation toolbox is to support teachers with planning and carrying out innovation & entrepreneurship teaching, both in relation to minor processes and workshops as well as longer-term courses. The innovation toolbox provides an overview to Design Thinking and provides over forty methods to use on projects.

Hasso Plattner Institute (HPI)

HPI is an institute and faculty of the University of Potsdam. Since 2007, the HPI School of Design Thinking has brought together students and academics from different fields to work in multidisciplinary teams where they learn to become innovators and to develop user-friendly products and services.

 

I am passionate about the intersection between Design Thinking and Project Management and welcome any feedback or comments on available Design Thinking resources. 

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

Posted on: October 21, 2018 07:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

#PMChat - Twitter Chat for Project Managers

 

 

I will be hosting #PMChat ...

Friday February 2nd at 12 pm EST /  5 pm GMT. 

Come join the discussion on how human-centered design can improve customer satisfaction and overall benefits realization for your projects. Looking forward to the dialog.

 

Twitter: @brucegay

Posted on: January 29, 2018 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Making a Difference

I am really looking forward to this year's PMI Global Conference in Chicago. This will be my first PMI Conference that I have attended outside of my regional chapter's professional development symposiums.

This year's conference theme "Making a Difference" asks us as professionals: Are you a Difference Maker? Who do you want to be?

I ask myself "Am I a Difference Maker"? -- "Miracle Worker"? -- "Bar Raiser"? -- "Game Changer" or even a "Deadline Crusher"? I probably could best describe myself as both a "Chaos Tamer" as well as a "Collaboration Wizard". Throughout my career, I endeavored to build working environments and team cultures that promote collaboration, innovation and fun.

I am also looking forward to the keynote speakers (Tim Berners-Lee, Nicholas Epley and Mercedes Ramirez-Johnson) at the Global Conference. They each have interesting background and experiences. 

 

Where you will likely find me at the conference...

Saturday, October 28th

  • Coffee and First-Time Attendee Conference Orientation
  • Opening Keynote with Sir Tim Berners-Lee
  • I hope you can join my session from 3:30 to 4:30pm (New Timeslot) for my presentation "Design Thinking & Project Management". This session is for individuals who want to learn more about design (e.g. managing innovation) and who want to start incorporating design into their projects and programs. 
  • How to Make Better Choices for You, Your Team, and Your Projects by Andy Kaufman or Transformation Leadership by Steve Mayner.
  • And to close out the day with the Annual Membership Meeting and then dinner and networking.
  • I plan on reviewing the PMI Global Standards Poster Sessions sometime on Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday, October 29th

  • Morning Coffee and then Keynote with Nicholas Epley
  • Organizing for Projects by Monique Aubry or Facilitating Effective Brainstorming Sessions by Brian Richardson & Katrine Maguire
  • Leadership Lessons We May Have Learned... by Ron Kurtz & Melissa Panagides-Busch
  • Adaptive Project Management by Andy Silber or Leading During a Disaster by Niraj Kumar
  • And of course I plan to attend Karen Chovan's The Necessary Culture for Soaring Performance.
  • Dinner and networking

Monday, October 30th

  • Morning Coffee and then AI and Project Management by Prasanna Adavi 
  • Creating an Enterprise Culture of Project Management by Beth Allen & Abby Frelich
  • The Language of Leadership by Dennis Cummins
  • Closing keynote with Mercedes Ramirez-Johnson

See you in Chicago!

Posted on: September 14, 2017 11:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Design Thinking & Project Management (repost)

Design and design thinking is "old news."  As Project Managers, we are late to this party. 

If you have not yet seen my webinar on Design Thinking & Project Management, here is a link:  https://www.projectmanagement.com/videos/330087/Design-Thinking---Project-Management


Design thinking has emerged as a major trend for how innovative organizations are approaching problem-solving. Design thinking encourages innovative solutions by drawing on approaches from engineering and design, and combining them with ideas from the arts, social sciences, and the business world.

Design Thinking is ...

1)  People-centered. Empathy is at the core.

Empathy gained through user research is at the center of design. The PM and project team should strive to include all project stakeholders and customers in the process, starting from project initiation. The goal is to get immediate and timely feedback from the customer and make changes and revisions along the way.

2) Extensive interdisciplinary collaboration.

A common challenge across projects is communication. Words, and the meaning behind them are often misunderstood. Different people with different backgrounds and experiences use language differently. Design Thinking tools and methods, like sketching, mind maps or physical models, can be extremely useful. They force people to remove imprecise words and organize around a “synthesized” picture to describe the concept. Additionally, people are terrible at recall, but we’re awesome at recognition. Project Managers should utilize these tools and methods to bring people together and work more effectively.

3) Highly creative. Strives for diverse viewpoints.

As a PM, you should staff your project team with people that possess different perspectives for the best results. You absolutely need people who think differently, but to be efficient, you need to find ways to communicate, prioritize, share in decision making. Seek out staff that can “think laterally” and are willing to try connecting ideas that might not seem to intuitively go together. 

4) All about doing and being hands-on.

Design Thinking is about taking ideas and concepts and quickly giving them form. Whether a napkin sketch, a prototype carved from foam rubber, or a digital mock-up, the quick-and-rough models that designers constantly create are a critical component of innovation. When you give form to an idea, you begin to make it real and can elicit emotional responses from end users and customers. You have to make in order to learn. 

5) Iterative.

Lastly, Design Thinking is iterative. You and your team will never get it right the first time.

As part of your project management process, you need to embed the cyclical process of prototyping, analyzing, and refining a product or service. Your team needs to secure timely feedback from the customer in order to make iterative/incremental improvements along the way. My advice -- the iterative nature of design is not as costly as not doing it at all.


A few closing thoughts on this topic:

  1. Design Thinking is not magic. There is rigor to it. You can learn it. You can practice it, you can get better at it.
  2. There are many design models to choose from and no single process or toolkit serves every case. As a PM, you need to understand whatever model you are using and account for it in your project planning and execution. 
  3. Design is a set of tools to solve problems. If you do it well, it is a sustainable activity that can transform your projects and your entire business.

 

I am passionate about evangelizing Design Thinking within the Project Management community. I welcome any feedback or comments below. 

Posted on: February 12, 2017 11:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)
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