“I have the need…the need for speed!”— Quote From the movie Top Gun

Last week’s newsletter about the need for “DESIGN” generated lots of questions, most of them nicely phrased.

The big summary of the questions was simply this. “We are supposed to be doing Agile. Even if we agree with you, ‘design’ is not acceptable in the Agile world.”

I encourage everyone that has this question to read the original agile manifesto.

You will not see anywhere that it says don’t design. Or that design is not important. In the “principles behind the Agile Manifesto,” design is called out twice as a key principle.

Yet, many people think that design and Agile don’t mix well.

I also understand why some people have negative feelings about design. Too many organizations treat the design process as an opportunity to produce large, cumbersome, useless documents. They add no value and slow you down.

I have also seen the design phase result in “analysis paralysis.”

Neither of those is a problem with the design process. The problem lies in some people’s understanding of a good design process.

When I talk about design, I am talking about ensuring that multiple ideas are debated to approach a problem. When I talk about design thinking, I am talking about the urgency to make sure our solutions are created on a solid foundation. When I am talking about design, I am talking about prototypes’ need to explore alternative approaches to the problem both from a technical perspective and from a user’s workflow perspective.

When I talk about design, I am talking about resilient eloquent solutions that enable new features to be easily added.

I have worked with multiple clients who have adopted various Agile methodologies, including Scrum, XP, and Rapid Prototyping. They stopped doing significant design work. In many cases, they had accumulated a significant amount of technical debt, making them slower and slower. Initially, doing “2-week sprints” (a core of Scrum) made them feel faster. Now many of the teams were spending their sprint times doing rework. Rework is not faster. It makes the whole organization slower in achieving speed to value.

I suggested to each of these teams is to claim ownership over whatever methodology they were using. I suggested customizing the methodology to fit their environment and their needs.

With my encouragement, each of those clients added design methods that worked for them.

With that addition, they got faster.

If you need speed, you have to design for speed.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

Photo by Sean Alabaster on Unsplash

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