Agile Design Thinking Sprint Planning

The highest priority of Agile Development is to “Satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.” Agile Development advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continual improvement, and it encourages rapid and flexible response to change.

Agile development achieves these goals through short development cycles called “sprints.” The short time frame allows organizations to adjust business strategies and pivot quickly to changing markets, regulations, technologies, etc. and mitigates risk around quality and cost.

Since a sprint is a short amount of time, the requirements must be clear – there isn’t a lot of time for “discovery” when the clock is ticking to get the work done. If your requirements are not clear then you are not sprinting, you are walking. And if you introduce new requirements in a sprint, you are not evening walking but crawling.

If the requirements are unclear or changing in a sprint, it is a product of poor planning.

Design Thinking is ‘thinking like a designer’ – a way of thinking – a mindset. It follows a Designers approach to problem solving. It is a “human-centered” approach that encourages empathy for the people that you are designing for – to understand needs, wants, desires – emotions. Ask the question “why do they want this” – why do they love this?

There are several design thinking frameworks to explain how to do this. A popular framework from Stanford has five phases: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test.

Design Thinking is an excellent method for developing your Agile Development requirements. The trick, like most things, is planning. For Agile Development, requirements must be completed for the development cycle (sprint) that needs them. Working backwards:

Prototype and Testing should be completed right before the sprint that needs them

Ideation is what informs the prototype, so it needs to precede the prototype

Define informs the Ideation, so it needs to precede the Ideation

Empathize informs the definition, so it needs to precede it

Depending on how complex or well understood the requirements are for an upcoming sprint will determine how much time is needed to empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. It may require hours, days or weeks… and that is why we plan it.

Van Tyne, Sean. Agile Develop Success, Sprints, Planning and User Experience.

Van Tyne, Sean. Innovation, Design Thinking and Human-Centered Design.

Krause, Rachel. Design Thinking and Agile. Nielsen Norman Group.