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Presentation: Empowering Agile Self-Organized Teams With Design Thinking

Track: Empowered Teams

Location: Empire Complex, 7th fl.

Duration: 4:10pm - 5:00pm

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Level: Intermediate

Persona: CTO/CIO/Leadership, General Software

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My experience and research has shown that design thinking empowers employees and teams, enabling them to create a more resilient, value-focused organizational culture.

Innovation-driven growth at the organizational level requires a multidisciplinary approach to designing systems that create the right conditions for self-organizing teams to explore and create while maintaining system hygiene. To achieve that growth, leaders and managers must adopt a strategy for fostering new thinking, practices, and processes that convert strategy both laterally and vertically into new value. To foster the right kind of environment, you must manage the boundaries of the teams, establishing the right cadence and rituals to ensure trust and psychological safety.

“Organizations that operate from the authoritarian, hierarchical, command and control model, where the top leaders control the work, information, decisions, and allocation of resources, produce employees that are less empowered, less creative, and less reductive.” – Journal of Strategic Studies, Creativity and Innovation: The Leadership Dynamics.

In this talk, we’ll discuss boundaries, policies, cadence for self-organizing teams, then cover the key principles and practices of design thinking and how it can be leveraged by agile teams to collaboratively test new options and create new value. Design thinking all comes down to the collaboration utilizing divergence and convergence: acquire and synthesize insights, formulate hypotheses, prototype solutions, and ruthlessly test them with real customers. 

We’ll cover that with a case study of how an infrastructure engineering team transformed themselves from waterfall to agile, while learning the key practices of design thinking to reduce the lead time for delivering services and systems from 9 months to days, and in some cases, hours.

 The key aspects of Design Thinking we’ll cover:

  1. The importance of trust, boundaries, and candor for team dynamics;
  2. Customer-Centricity. Who are they? What are their challenges? What are their ‘jobs-to-be-done’?
  3. Empathy and Understanding to engaging with customers in their context;
  4. Validate through experimentation that the team is solving the right problem;
  5. Bringing the whole team together to collaboratively explore the problem space and engage in divergent and convergent exercises;
  6. Prototype lightweight solution hypotheses to ensure that the problems are solved before scaling out and investing in delivering the product or service to customers;
  7. When design thinking is appropriate, and when it’s a waste of time (when a user story is simple, simply do it!)

Speaker: William Evans

Chief Design Officer & Design Semantic Foundry

Will Evans explores the convergence of practice and theory using Lean, Design Thinking, Theory of Constraints, and Service Design with global enterprises from NYC to Berlin to Singapore. He works with a select group of clients undergoing Lean and Agile transformations across the entire organization. He is currently authoring the book "Designing Resilience: The Strategy, Structure, and Spirit of Enterprise Agility due this fall. 

Will earned his Jonah® from AGI, and serves on the Board of Advisors for Rutgers CX (Customer Experience). Formerly, he was Design Thinker-In-Residence at NYU Stern.

Will was previously the Managing Director of TLCLabs, the world's leading Lean Design Innovation consultancy where he brought Agile, Lean Thinking and Kanban to enterprise media, finance, and healthcare companies.

Will is passionate about coffee, so much so that he started his own brand of organic single-origin coffee beans. He Co-Founded and Co-Chaired the LeanUXNYC conference, Founded the AgileUX NYC conference, and was also the User Experience track chair for the Agile 2013/2014 conferences. 

Find William Evans at