Human centred design thinking is about understanding our client’s underlying need, and how new technologies and processes can help us meet that need quickly and at scale. It’s about understanding how our widget can help the end users do their jobs better and enjoy their work more.
By blending the client’s latent human-centred needs and behaviours with existing and emerging Project Management practices and technologies, we can make sure that the client’s voice is included across the project, alongside our engineers, architects and testers.
Bringing a human-centred design focus to Project Management is about three things.
First, building a deeper, richer understanding of where the client wants to get to, and the behaviour changes that they will need to make, to get there.
Second, designing our project solution so that it keeps the “human” at the forefront throughout the process.
Third, questioning the prevailing orthodoxies about how the client operates, and looking for opportunities to meet the client’s needs more efficiently.
Applying human-centred design thinking
Instead of doing things the way that they have always been done, a human-centred design focus asks the Project Manager to listen to the client and respond to what’s being said – how people work, the problems they are dealing with, what they need in the solution, and how they see their world.
Applying a human-centred design focus to Project Management gives our stakeholders visibility in how we are approaching the change process, and confidence that the outputs will meet their needs.
Short, targeted activities, building on each other, to help create an iterative, dynamic project management framework.
This process can be really illuminating and can help us uncover opportunities to do things differently (better!), quickly.
Here is a short, sharp, 5 step process that I use when setting up the Project and Program Plan. It helps unpack the client’s voice and bring it into the project plan so that we kick off the project with a human-centred focus.
Frame | Work with the client to understand their landscape.
Put yourself in the client’s shoes and understand their landscape. What are their critical business drivers, priorities and pain points? How will the change impact their business? What are they looking to achieve from the change?
Discover | Look at the client’s environment through the 10 Step Innovation process (Configuration, Offering, Experience). Are there insights that allow us to change the way we deliver the project, so that we create value opportunities?
Check current and emerging project management practices, globally. Are there any processes, tools and techniques that will allow us to challenge our standard project delivery paradigm? Does the way we plan to deliver the project make sense? Are there insights and opportunities to ask questions, challenge paradigms and find a way to drive a better change outcome?
Analyse | Make sense of the data. Question the findings. Build a list of design opportunities that help us respond to the client needs.
Create | Build a plan of action. Develop specific actions that we can implement now, and document other ideas that we can return to as we iterate through the project lifecycle.
Test and Develop | Implement the changes to our project framework. Observe the outcomes. Document the impacts. Understand what works and what doesn’t.
As a general practice
- I complete this process during the Project Initiation Phase – total duration of these five steps should be 2-4 days
- I produce a brief 3-5 page report of the initial findings, and plan of action.
- This report becomes part of the Project body of knowledge.
We will also use this same iterative approach at Project Gateways, to make sure that the client’s voice is being heard and remains clear. If the client’s priorities and drivers have changed during the Project Phase, the Gateway Review will be an important point at which to recalibrate the plan, identify and manage any changes arising from the client’s changes.
The important thing is to systematically and regularly, capture the client’s voice in the planning process, and make sure that it is reflected in the design process at each point.