Covid-19 Disaster recovery: A retrospective on design thinking

by Louis Botha

Most of us would agree that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on our way of thinking on both personal and professional levels.
This shift in our thoughts could impact our behaviour and be carried through and into the workplace to reflect our new reality.
In the past, we, the IT community, have used terms to describe events that have a significant impact on projects, sprints and releases such as “risks events”, “major issues”, “blockers”, “stoppers”, “Red status”, “disasters” and “acts of god”.

We document our processes to respond, depending on how agile ‘we’ are, and get a couple of signatures or thumbs in the air to indicate agreement and move ahead with the next agenda item.
Too often, we run through checklist upon checklist and do things for the sake of checking the box rather than saying “Do I have the right thinking here?”,
“Is what I’ve written here really adding value”, “Will this feature make the solution resilient enough to withstand an ‘act of god’?”

Let’s do a quick design retrospective on the last feature, the last sprint or the last solution you designed or implemented when Covid-19 struck. 

  1. Could your work continue as before?
  2. Is what you designed still relevant? 
  3. Is what you designed enhancing the resiliency of the solution? 
  4. Is the system you implemented still viable? 
  5. Is there traceability to link your feature/product to a viable business case? 
  6. Is your design still adding the value it promised to deliver? 
  7. Did the design solve the problem?
This design retrospective should trigger some areas for possible improvement in the way we design our delivery processes and the quality delivery of the features and products going forward.
Having the ability to be nimble, flexible or should we just say “agile”, in the way we do designs could be the game-changer in times of disaster. Applied flexibility in our design thinking will support early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
What better way to become more agile, than to look at the Scaled Agile Framework for some guidance to test our design thinking during times of uncertainty.
Figure 2. The Continuous Delivery Pipeline is a mechanism for continuous learning and value delivery

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Here are 5 questions we could ask ourselves to be more agile in our design thinking, based on this process.
Continuous exploration:

  1. Do I understand my clients’ needs and the required solution to address their needs accordingly? 
  2. Do I test my theories and can I link my design to value delivered to the client?
Continuous integration:
  1. Do I refine my designs in a staging environment to understand the impact and the benefits that will be derived from the feature?  
Continuous deployment:
  1. Do I follow the efficacy of my designs into production and make adjustments to my design thinking? 
  2. Do I elicit input from the client regarding way forward pre- and post-release of features?
In unprecedented times, we still have a responsibility to ask the right questions, the tough questions, not only to our clients when we elicit requirements, but also to ourselves as we aim to better our craft as IT professionals. Sometimes our questions will lead to a fantastic process or an incredible feature but it could also sometimes lead to the end of the entire product. We ask questions. That’s who we are.  In retrospect, now more than ever, we should keep asking questions to build resilient systems that could withstand the test even against an unthinkable disaster. 

About the Author:

medium_louis_botha.jpg Louis is an IT Professional with a proven track record of delivering multi-million dollar projects within the financial services, retail and consulting industries.
 He is a Project Management Professional in good standing and with additional certifications as Scrum master, Agile Coach and Prince2 practitioner. 
 His IT career includes roles like Business Analyst, Senior Project Manager, Portfolio Manager, Practice lead and Architect.
 He is a natural servant leader, able to coach, mentor, lead and collaborate with individuals and teams alike.
 He is passionate about people, quality delivery and fit for purpose processes across all facets of business and technology.