Design and Project Mangement

Competitive advantage is sustained through design and innovation. Growth and profitability are realized through the ability to create new value faster than your competition and successfully deliver through structure, process, or technology. Organizations must establish capacity for this type of learning and the competency to guide their teams to embrace the rapid change that innovation requires.

All change happens through projects of finite duration and result in a new outcome. Project managers facilitate the group work of design, the integrative work of cross-functional change, and provide the tools and techniques to manage complexity and risk during implementation.

Design vs. Planning

“Planning is a formalized procedure to produce an articulated result, in the form of an integrated system of decisions.”, Henry Mintzenberg.

Planning Assumptions:

  • A clearly defined end state is known
  • The process is consistent and repeatable
  • Alternatives can be evaluated in advance
  • Direct solutions exist

“Design’s holistic understanding of unique situations is reached through critical and creative thinking, mediated by discourse and drawings”, Lawson.

Design Assumptions:

  • End state may be unknowable in advance
  • Unexpected discontinuities may occur
  • Environment is too complex to understand which approach is best before interacting with the environment
  • Simple, direct solutions may not exist

Ideally, design starts prior to detailed planning. This enables the team to frame the problem correctly at the beginning, and validate the project narrative. The process of detailed planning is then fully informed by a systemic understanding developed through design activities. Designing, planning, and executing are aligned and complementary, with shared understanding and the greatest opportunities for learning. “In design, action is taken both to transform the system, and to learn”, Schon.

Investment of additional time is required: divergent thinking, iteration, critique, deconstruction, dialog, examining alternative perspectives, reflecting, and reframing engage and consume resources. Striking the right design vs. planning balance is developed through examination of objectives, strategy, alignment, and constraints with the sponsor and key stakeholders.

Initial Engagement

Design Thinking and Project Management

Design Thinking in the context of project management creates a more comprehensive architecture enabling superior outcomes through an enhanced team learning system. “Design does not replace planning, but planning is incomplete without design. Executed correctly, the two processes always are complementary, overlapping, synergistic, and continuous.” General James N. Mattis, US Joint Forces Command, 2009

PMBOK: Expansion of traditional waterfall model during divergent phase:

  • The first phase of Requirements Collection and Project Scope Statement development offers the ability to explore more of the project lifecycle in an experimental mode in advance, potentially identifying challenges, and deepening the team understanding of the project and it’s alignment with organization goals. This can be especially important for longer or larger projects.Can be helpful with projects with a high degree of ambiguity in their definition.
  • Divergent process selection and tailoring  Requirements Design Scenarios to fit strategy and practical constraints.
  • Can be helpful with evolutionary projects and initiatives in organizations with long histories as it can be tempting to assume past knowledge is sufficient and understood by all stakeholders.

Agile: Close alignment with Design Thinking

  • Agile Manifesto
  • Scrum Master vs. Facilitator
  • Highest value first (from backlog developed by product owner)
  • Continuous development in small sprints
  • Test with “finish completely” or done-done mindset with user community