Combining Design Thinking with Project Management - Spring2 Innovation

Combining Design Thinking with Project Management

October 14, 2017

Collaborating and Innovating within governmentA project is best delivered when it considers the needs of the end user, from all angles before beginning the project management life cycle. By incorporating the needs of the end user along the formal project management path and co-creating with the end user when possible through change requests is what helps keep a project on the right track to being successful. Managing risk and quality control as new information becomes available from end users and continuing to repeat the   design thinking process is one example of how design thinking should be coupled with project management.


Applying design thinking prior to starting the official project management process can be extremely helpful, especially considering the fact that your stakeholders will be engaged even before the project has started. Giving stakeholders a voice is a part of the process for co-creating what the solution will look like. Ideally this will provide you with project sponsorship built in as well.

Additionally, the change management component of projects is reduced because the end user’s perspective has already been taken into consideration. Having engaged end users – they know very early on what the plan is planning and how to develop the project with their perspective in mind.

On the other side of the coin, Design Thinking also needs project management, but, perhaps at a looser or higher level depending on the projects goal. Without combining project management with design thinking, there is a risk that organizations will end up staying in earlier stages of design thinking too long and risk not having an outcome or an implementation action plan.

One question that clients frequently ask is, “how do you know when you’re done doing design thinking?” This question usually stems from not knowing when to start identifying the problem to solve. One question to ask then is, how to recognize whether you have enough of the right information?” Most of the time clients are confined by the three commons constraints – time, money and resources.  As is the case for other projects, I would encourage clients to put time frames around design thinking and as new information is discovered, those timelines may need to change but they are a good guideline to ensure projects are getting into the prototype and testing phases within a good amount of time.