The answer to the Agile-UX question

Designing the answer to agile and ux

Designing the answer to agile and ux
(image courtesy of Shutterstock)

Making user experience and design work in an Agile environment is one of the biggest challenges facing product development teams today. Lean UX is the most effective way to design a process to solve this challenge. However, there is an even more fundamental and critical transformation your organization has to make in order to facilitate the adoption of Lean UX and solve the Agile/UX question.

Your organization has to value design. 

Adopting Lean UX and ultimately integrating design and agility in your product development process is expensive. It will force changes in team structure, incentives, hiring plans, feature choices, team dynamics, prioritization and many other facets. All of these changes cost something – time, money, morale, political capital, etc. If your organization doesn’t see value in design as the differentiation in your product’s success, it will be very hesitant to pay these costs.

If you’re struggling to make Agile and UX work in your company, ask yourself how willing your colleagues and supervisors are to pay the costs of making this marriage work. If the answer is “not very likely” then your organization doesn’t value design and you’ll never solve the Agile/UX question in an effective way.


About Jeff Gothelf

Jeff Gothelf is a lean thinking and design evangelist, spreading the gospel of great team collaboration, product innovation and evidence-based decision making. Jeff is an author, speaker and thought leader on the future of product development and design, often teaching workshops or giving talks on building cultures that support teamwork and innovation. Jeff co-founded Neo Innovation, a lean/agile product firm in NYC. Prior to that, he led the UX design teams at TheLadders and Web Trends. Earlier he worked with and led small teams of software designers at AOL. He is the co-author (with Josh Seiden) of Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience and the upcoming (Harvard, 2016) Sense and Respond (
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  • Jonathan

    This echoes Jared Spool’s assertion that if you work in UX for an employer who doesn’t value UX, then you should leave. It’s a waste of your time trying to bring about change because if you were in a sufficiently influential position to do that, you would not have the problem in the first place. I’d generally agree with him, at least until the UX job market goes off the boil…

  • Tristan Kromer

    You lost me. What was the question that this is the answer to?

  • Jeff Gothelf

    How to integrate user experience and design into an agile development process.

  • Tristan Kromer

    I think this is a good comment on a company structure from the perspective of the BMC. Is design a value that get’s a spot in the value proposition?

    (I would argue always…but that’s aside the point.)

    Your book is a better answer to that particular question.

  • Jeff Gothelf

    I agree with both of your points Tristan. What I’m getting at here though — especially given the amount of time I’m spending with companies struggling with this challenge these days — is that design has to be on the company’s radar as a discipline equal in value to engineering, marketing, strategy, etc. If it’s not, then the org will not be motivated enough to truly build successful, agile, cross-functional teams.

  • Alexandre Lima

    Jeff, I was wondering. I saw a lecture by an anthropologist who works with market ethnography about a project she did for a big telecon. I would consider her work to be part of an UX process but I don’t see her three months (or more) job, fit in a Lean or Agile method. The thing is, when we must deliver something very fast, maybe Lean and Agile are suitable, but what if we have to go deep? What is your opinion about that? If we use Lean and Agile instead of tradicional techniques, will we have the same results as this anthropologist about the “human experiente” and wich contact points we have to focus? Will we have the same insights? What could we be missing if we don’t take time to study our subjects?

  • Jeff Gothelf

    There is always value in good research. I don’t believe lean and agile discount thorough research. What I would ask is, do you need to wait for that research to be done before you begin your work? In most cases, the answer is no. In other cases you can learn as you go and refine not only your assumptions but the actual research you’re conducting.

    I think some industries (e.g., healthcare ) would demand more thorough research while others not as much. As always, context matters.