Notes on How to combine Design Thinking and Agile in practice

From a post on Medium by Tom Roach, link here.


First are customer journey maps, IBM focuses on what it calls the “six experiences”:

  1. Discover, try, buy (how do people find, understand and acquire the product)
  2. Getting started (what’s the first use experience? Onboarding? Setting up and learning to use it?)
  3. Productive use (how people use it from day 2 on, from the perspective of both an occasional and power user)
  4. Manage and upgrade (what does it take to keep the product running smoothly?)
  5. Leverage and extend (do users combine this product with other products and services, via APIs etc?)
  6. Get support (how do users get help with problems of their own making or of the system’s)

Design Thinking is about taking responsibility for the entire experience and having total customer empathy, which mapping can help establish

It also focuses on discovering pain points and opportunities to modify user behavior

Next comes ideating (members put stickies on the wall) and voting (stickers identify which stickies are the most impactful and feasible)

Now Storyboarding, first individually and then as a group

Next is Hills, best thought of as “commander’s intents,” where a military commander doesn’t give exact orders but rather key objectives to be achieved.

  • IBM has teams create three hills per project
  • They’re written like sentence diagrams, with statements of user value written in format of a who, a what, and a wow
  • First it’s a silent activity where people write their statements based on the big ideas and values discussed earlier
  • Teams discuss possibilities and select the biggest ideas, then rewrite the Hiill with phrasing as clear, concise, memorable and empathetic as possible
  • Example: Claire (who) can retrieve information on actual part shortages (what) in less than three minutes (wow)


Create a customer journey map. Similar to the statement from earlier, but this time as a future statement

Now create an experience roadmap–take the customer journey map and draw a line under it, and identify the work the product teams would need to implement to deliver each portion of the journey

Create user stories to help plan the implementation delivery. You may have 20-30 of them

Now prioritize them. Plan to deliver the entire experience over three releases, like aCupcake, Birthday Cake and Wedding Cake delivery model–each is satisfying on its own and the teams learns as they go how to actually make a wedding cake

Time to create a product backlog!

Then onto the planning poker phase. (Google the concept for background.) This will stop the planning process from devolving into a political nightmare of agreeing on the exact amount of hours something will take to do and keeps the focus on the work required, not a specific timeframe.

There’s more to Tom’s article, check out the link!

Tom Roach is UX & Interaction Designer at IBM Design. Gamer & Geek. Cambridge, UK transplant in Austin, TX. (from


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