Combine Design Thinking, Lean Startup and Agile for a Strategy Roadmap

Written by

Chuen Seet

A strategy roadmap is a model that tries to predict what should happen in the future. Developing one can take months, and things continually change in the meantime. As soon as your roadmap is published, it is probably already outdated. So why spend so much time perfecting it?

Minimum Viable Strategy Roadmap

Design Thinking, Lean Startup and Agile methods offer a solution for quickly developing and adapting a minimum viable strategy roadmap that has just enough information to help the organization move forward. A minimum viable strategy roadmap can be developed in a few days or weeks — not months.

There are many methods for developing a strategy roadmap. A capability-based planning approach is one such method, supported by the Open Group TOGAF® and Business Architecture Guild BIZBOK® Guide.

The Jibility six-step method is a simplified capability-based planning approach and is the basis of our strategic roadmapping tool. Give it a try by signing up to Jibility for free.

Waterfall vs Design Thinking, Lean Startup and Agile

Like many other methods, the six Jibility Steps® are laid out sequentially to simplify communication and practical understanding of the method.

Following these steps waterfall-style, where each step is perfected before moving onto the next, means it can take months to complete a strategy roadmap. So instead, consider applying Design Thinking, Lean Startup and Agile methods to deliver a series of minimum viable strategy roadmaps in short 1-2 week cycles.

From this:

Waterfall approach to building a strategy roadmap diagram

To this:

Agile approach to building a strategy roadmap diagram

Note that, while Design Thinking, Lean Startup and Agile approaches are preferred when creating your minimum viable strategy roadmaps, these methods are not always the most optimal approaches when executing the initiatives on your roadmap.

Design Thinking, Lean Startup and Agile

What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is a human-centered approach to understanding and solving problems by challenging assumptions and redefining the problem in order to help find alternative answers. Design Thinking is best described by the Interaction Design Foundation’s five-stage design thinking process.

5 stages of design thinking (diagram by IDF)

What is Lean Startup?

Blog writer and author Eric Ries wrote about and popularized Lean Startup as a method for rapidly developing products that customers want by following a scientific approach through cycles of building minimum viable products, testing, learning and pivoting or persevering.

Lean startup build-measure-learn feedback loop diagram


What Is Agile?

Agile is an approach practised in software development, which has been around for over twenty years. The manifesto for Agile software development, which dates back to 2001, was a significant event in the history of Agile.

Agile principles and techniques (such as iterative and incremental delivery) have gained in popularity and are now applied in many areas of the business other than software development, such as in enterprise architecture. A commonly practiced Agile approach is Scrum (illustrated below).

Scrum methodology diagram

Combine Design Thinking, Lean Startup and Agile

Today, Design Thinking, Lean Startup and Agile are widely accepted methods, and these are often combined to understand customer problems and needs, develop products and scale businesses. Gartner has put together a clear illustration of how these three methods can be combined:

Gartner diagram combining design thinking, lean startup and agile

Design Thinking is an excellent method for understanding your customers’ (and stakeholders’) challenges; defining clear objectives; and ideating solutions for your strategy roadmap.

Lean Startup provides a sound approach to rapidly build a minimum viable strategy roadmap to test with your customers, gather feedback, learn, and decide whether to pivot or persevere.

Finally, to build a minimum viable strategy roadmap, Agile principles can guide the development process and ensure that your strategy roadmap is developed iteratively and incrementally rather than sequentially.

Develop a Strategy Roadmap with Design Thinking and Lean Startup

Developing a strategy roadmap is very much like developing a product. To succeed, apply Design Thinking and Lean Startup approaches as follows:

  1. Understand and empathize with the customer
    Anyone who uses the strategy roadmap, or who owns a resource impacted by the strategy roadmap, is a customer or stakeholder. You must understand everyone’s pain points, be clear about the problem being solved and challenge assumptions.
  2. Set clear objectives
    Consider what the customers need in order to address the challenges.
  3. Define hypotheses on what needs to change
    Identify which capabilities need to change in order to deliver to the objectives.
  4. Develop a minimum viable product
    Develop a minimum viable product (MVP) or minimum viable strategy roadmap based on an understanding of the need for change. Your MVP should be just sufficient (based on your best understanding at the time) for customer testing. This is where Agile principles can be applied (see next section).
  5. Test your MVP with the customer
    Strategy roadmaps are built on a number of hypotheses and assumptions. Some of these are likely to be wrong.
  6. Adapt your strategy roadmap based on learnings
    Your strategy roadmap should evolve based on feedback and learnings.
  7. Determine whether to pivot or persevere
    Does the strategy roadmap deliver to customer expectations or is a pivot required?

Develop a Strategy Roadmap with an Agile Approach

An Agile approach can be applied when developing your MVP strategy roadmap. Building an MVP is similar to building the features of any product (which is the Build step in Lean Startup). Adopt Agile principles such as:

  1. Frequency
    Deliver a minimum viable strategy roadmap for frequent customer testing (weeks rather than months)
  2. Iterations
    Develop the minimum viable strategy roadmap iteratively and incrementally
  3. Simplicity
    Keep it simple – customers will not appreciate (or understand) a complex roadmap
  4. Prioritization
    Prioritize and focus on the high-value and important features of the strategy roadmap first
  5. Feedback
    Gather feedback early and adapt accordingly

Things will inevitably change once you have your minimum viable strategy roadmap. When they do, simply take all the feedback and new parameters and go through another Lean Startup and Agile cycle to produce the next minimum viable strategy roadmap.

Combining design thinking. lean startup and agile for a strategy roadmap

Free strategy roadmap tool

Our method for building strategy roadmaps is dubbed the Jibility Steps®. These six steps are a simplification of the industry-recognized capability-based planning approach.

Jibility is a free tool that guides the user through the six steps, and so build a substantiated strategy roadmap efficiently.