Design Thinking For Dummies
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Sequence planning involves the scheduling of the work packages during design thinking. With sequence planning, you determine the logical succession of the work packages. A rough framework to follow here would mirror the phases of the design thinking process — such as understanding the task, searching for solutions, creating a prototype, and testing the proposed solution with the customer. You assign the work packages to the individual phases in the form of a process list, where you determine a rough timeline and logical sequence for the work packages in the course of the project.

For the detailed planning, you identify the logical and functional dependencies of each task by evaluating their relationships to preceding tasks. You ask which work packages must be finished, or at least started, with an interim result before you can initiate the work package in question. You start finding ideas only when you have determined the correct target users and have defined the concrete task. You start manufacturing the product when you have successfully tested the prototype with the customer.

In addition to planning the sequence, you should define milestones. A milestone represents a certain moment in time but has no intrinsic set duration. It serves as an interim goal, where the progress of the project can be reviewed and a decision can be made about how to proceed (using Go to continue or Kill to terminate the project). Milestones should be set at the end of each project phase. In design thinking, you can describe the results of each phase by using Task Defined, Target Users Identified, Idea for Solution Developed, Prototype Created, and Test Successfully Completed with the Customer.

Limit the number of milestones in a project and consider these guidelines:

  • One milestone for every two to three months
  • At least four milestones per project
  • At least one milestone at the 3-month interval
Laying down milestones has a motivating effect on the employees. When the team reaches an important milestone, be sure to celebrate it with them.

Estimating the required time

After specifying the sequence of the individual work packages, you have to estimate their duration. You can use the following resources when coming up with an estimate:
  • Values based on experiences from completed projects
  • Time estimates based on expert opinions
  • Analogies (by searching for comparable projects and estimating the duration of the individual work packages)
  • The degree of difficulty and novelty of the task (the more difficult and unique the task, the more time that should be planned for it)

If only specific time slots are available for bottleneck resources or tasks, be sure to incorporate buffer times as a way to smooth out the process. Durations should always be estimated independently of any concrete ideas regarding the deadline, because such ideas would strongly influence the time estimate itself. Set aside a particular time requirement (5 to 15 percent of the total time needed) for the coordination of your design thinking project. For design thinking projects, you should plan in some detail how long the initial work packages will take and then plan the later phases more roughly.

Creating a bar graph for a better overview

The best way to illustrate the timeline is a bar graph, which is also referred to as a Gantt chart (after its inventor, Henry Laurence Gantt). Bar graphs are used to create the sequence planning as a basis for status reports and to present the time-related aspects of the project, as shown.

bar graph in design thinking Working with a bar graph.

The Y axis shows the representation of the project course in the form of the work packages, and the X axis refers to the time units in bar form. The length of the bar is used as a yardstick for the time needed for the work packages. If multiple work packages are occurring simultaneously, the bars are shown on top of each other. Bar graphs can be created and read easily and quickly. In a bar graph, you can record special activities, such as milestones (usually in the form of a rhombus).

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