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Lean vs. Agile vs. Design Thinking

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Lean vs. Agile vs. Design Thinking

What You Really Need to Know to Build High-Performing Digital Product Teams

Sense & Respond,

15 min read
8 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Agile? Lean? Design Thinking? How do you choose among competing approaches to product development?

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Jeff Gothelf distills two decades of experience in this slim volume outlining how to combine the best elements of product development strategies – Agile, Lean Start-Up and Design Thinking – for your end user’s maximum benefit. Gothelf focuses on the practices these methods share and suggests ways to create an aligned team of your technical, design and managerial personnel. His central points come down to: Put your customers first, and be flexible as you experiment with different tactics.


When engineers use Agile, product managers use Lean Start-Up and designers use Design Thinking, aligning these methods is a challenge.

You might think it wise to let these internal groups use whichever methodology works best for them. Unfortunately, these differing approaches produce outcomes and incentives that often clash. Engineers concentrate narrowly on getting features completed and out the door as quickly as possible, but they sometimes lack a clear understanding of customer needs. Product managers prioritize tasks and assignments based on intuition and the influential voices of business stakeholders, not customers. Designers who generate product concepts often lack grounding in the products’ practicality or in how they mesh with the company’s overall strategy.

Agile, Lean Start-Up and Design Thinking each came into being to address a specific problem. And as each became increasingly standardized and commodified, it morphed over time to be more specific and restricted in practice. These days, firms use Agile mostly to deliver excellent code quickly and efficiently, overlooking the other important components of...

About the Author

Jeff Gothelf is also the author of Lean UX, Sense & Respond and Forever Employable. He consults with and coaches for high-growth businesses and large enterprises.

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