Design thinking is a universal systemic approach for delighting stakeholders and customers. The process seeks to create a solution that is not only desired by its customers and users, but also ensures the solution is feasible, economically viable, and sustainable over the solution’s own product lifecycle. This topic is explored in depth over three days in the SAFe Agile Product Management course.

Design thinking is a continuous process that drives an Agile Release Train (ART). Through the use of the Continuous Delivery Pipeline, an ART can constantly discover potential new features or functions, release them frequently to their customers, and collect customer feedback to be integrated back into new product planning. This customer feedback loop is also instrumental in driving innovation within the organisation – as although many good innovations will come specifically from within an enterprise itself, the innovation riptide (and ideas funnel) can also be fed from the interpretation of these external inputs.

The design thinking process

Delighting customers is a hard thing to do all the time, but this is a challenge that Product and Solution Management face – and so, they need a range of tools to support them in this quest. There is a standard pattern depicted by a Double Diamond shape (see image) that neatly describes the design thinking process; the first diamond to understand the problem, and the second diamond to design a suitable solution to the problem. When this process is done well, at the end of the second diamond you should have a solution which is a very good “problem fit.”

Click image to enlarge | © Scaled Agile, Inc.

In the “discover” period of the first diamond this is a very divergent and sometimes ambiguous phase where data gathering and analysis techniques should be used to really explore the problem area from different perspectives. From this work, patterns will start to emerge that should begin to point towards, and then in turn “define”, what the real problem to be solved actually is. Once this stage has been reached, we can begin to work out how to solve the problem.

The second diamond follows a similar divergent pattern, this time in the solution space where patterns such as set-based design, as well as early prototyping or modelling can be employed to explore a range of different options and challenges to solve the stated problem. As we take this process deeper and advance the different potential solution options – we can start to gain structured feedback and data from potential (or existing) customers, which in-turn we can use to better inform our choice of solution, and hone and improve that product further through its delivery cycles in an iterative and incremental way.

Feasible, viable and sustainable products

Product and Solution Management have the above challenge, and therefore must also deliver those delightful product solutions in a feasible, viable, and sustainable way. To achieve this they must:

  • Understand the product market and the customer, and perform market research as needed
  • Segment and size the potential markets and create personas and empathy maps for the segment participants
  • Ensure the economic investments in the product are in line with business strategy, and own pricing, licencing and return on investment
  • Drive product Strategy and execution and manage the Program or Solution Backlog
  • Collaborate with diverse stakeholders and communicate the product vision throughout the value stream
  • Continue innovation throughout the product’s lifecycle and ensure the product’s future technical health

Learn more about design thinking…

To learn more about the customer centricity and design thinking dimensions of Agile Product delivery, as well as how Product Managers support the continuous delivery pipeline, the SAFe Agile Product Manager (APM) course is an essential starting point.