Design for Lean


Padma Venkatrangan, Program Manager - Delivery Excellence, IBM, Farmers Branch, TX, USA


Design Thinking, Agile, Lean Six Sigma, Healthcare





This case study illustrates how Design Thinking was used to enhance the traditional Lean-Six Sigma methodology by using innovation to bring about a new way of thinking, approaching and eventually, a new way of working. Agile practices, Lean ways of removing wasteful processes, Analyzing process variables using Six Sigma tools and customer-centric Design Thinking have been adapted to identify and solve problems, design new solutions and foster culture change separately, within organizations. However, there is no reason why these simple, yet effective tools and methodologies can’t be applied in combination for any business process transformation.

The presentation would illustrate the power of the following:

Power of Design thinking approach (Persona's, Story Boards and Desired Experiences)

Lean tools like Root-cause analysis(5-Whys), Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP)

And how they can be applied to address issues outside of a single organization like achieving work life integration” or Address Physician Burnout.

While this topic can be applied to pretty much any organizational aspect, or issues outside of it, the speaker's experience is replete with instances from the healthcare industry and they will be predominantly used for illustrative purposes.

The hypothesis is that if we set the right context to a problem and create the right culture, the right solutions and also the most challenging change management involved in implementing the solution can be achieved. Starting with Design Thinking and combining it with Lean tools to look at the entire process will produce just that. The participants could involve their entire team/family in solving any conflicts or issues using these methods and achieve optimum lifestyle.

So, the starting point would be always people-centric or the personas whose experience we are trying to improve. This sets the context of the problem. Sometimes continual improvement is not enough, a break through is needed. Starting with the stakeholders' desired experience is an impactful approach that provides effective buy-ins.

We are looking to see many ah-ha moments for the participants as they unravel the mystery behind their challenges, or even transform their challenge into a fun activity when the sponsor users are participating.


This presentation is unique in the following ways:

It provides an ala carte of tools picked from multiple methodologies in one place

While it is not going to certify the participants in one methodology or the other, it gives a pretty good teaser and preview of how companies adapt the way of working and how it can be applied for personal growth and empowerment.

Filled with interesting Anecdotes of transformational journeys of famous companies like Pixar, Toyota, Amazon, IBM, Google and Shake Shack, this would be highly engaging, and insightful.

With most tools just requiring for the right people to come together and work with a bunch of stickies, it illustrates that, more than Fancy Tools or Big Data Analytic Insights, it is the mind-set that drives changes and improvements.

It would invoke, if not embed, a mind-set shift rather than a introduction to a set of skills.

The Business transformation tools that are being taught referred to in the presentation, began in manufacturing domain or software domain but are now widely applied and adapted across all industries or business processes. Thus they are proven to be effective tools derived from first principles of efficiency, innovation and culture building. So, in order to illustrate the power and universal adaptability of these, a few generic problems are presented as case studies.

They involve changes in the way of thinking, approaching life with clear priorities and doing things differently, and striving for continuous improvement.