Intertwining Lean and Design Thinking: Software Product Development from Empathy to Shipment

Part of the Management for Professionals book series (MANAGPROF)


A few years back, everybody in the industry seemed to be talking about how “Lean Thinking” can improve software development. Best practices emerged, books were written and Lean Thinking, associated with agile process frameworks became somewhat of a standard work culture in software development. Now that many people are actually practicing lean and agile development, they have started to wonder about something called “Design Thinking”. When we coach development teams in a large software company, we’re frequently being asked whether Design Thinking is the next big thing substituting lean software development. After having guided several teams through successful projects, our verdict is: Design Thinking is not Lean’s heir; in fact the two schools can be intertwined in many ways and complement each other very well. As we will elaborate in this case study, they share some integral core values and goals, and can therefore be applied in the same project without corrupting each other. As a proof of concept, we combined and utilized the underlying set of methods in order to explore a yet relatively unknown and unusual domain for SAP business applications: Software for professional sailors and their coaches that helps them to optimize their training experience and competitive performance.


Design Thinking User Story Agile Method Product Vision Agile Development 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We have to thank: Stefan Lacher, Jochen Guertler and his Innovation Center team, as well as Marcus Baur as main representative for Sailing Team Germany.


  1. Anderson, D. J. (2010). Kanban. Sequim, WA: Blue Hole Press.Google Scholar
  2. Beck, K. (1999). Embracing change with extreme programming. Computer, 32(10), 70–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beck, K., Beedle, M., Bennekum, A. V., Cockburn, A., Cunningham, W., Fowler, M., et al. (2001). Agile manifesto.Google Scholar
  4. Blau, B., & Hildenbrand, T. (2011b). Product line engineering in large-scale lean and agile software product development environments – Towards a hybrid approach to decentral control and managed reuse. Presented at the 6th international conference on availability, reliability and security, Vienna.Google Scholar
  5. Blau, B., Hildenbrand, T., Xu, Y., & Fassunge, M. G. (2011a). Incentives and performance in large-scale lean software development – An agent-based simulation approach. Presented at the 6th international conference on evaluation of novel approaches to software engineering (ENASE 2011), Beijing.Google Scholar
  6. Brown, T. (2009). Change by design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. Harper Business.Google Scholar
  7. Chow, T., & Cao, D. B. (2008). A survey study of critical success factors in agile software projects. Journal of Systems and Software, 81(6), 961–971.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cohn, M. (2004). User stories applied: For agile software development. Boston: Addison-Wesley Professional.Google Scholar
  9. Derby, E., Larsen, D., & Schwaber, K. (2006). Agile retrospectives: Making good teams great. Raleigh: Pragmatic Bookshelf.Google Scholar
  10. Eisenhardt, K. M. (1989). Building theories from case study research. Academy of Management Review, 14(4), 532–550.Google Scholar
  11. Hevner, A., March, S., Park, J., & Ram, S. (2004). Design science in information systems research. MIS Quarterly, 28(1), 75–105.Google Scholar
  12. Highsmith, J. A., & Highsmith, J. (2009). Agile project management: Creating innovative products. Boston: Addison-Wesley Professional.Google Scholar
  13. Hildenbrand, T., Geisser, M., Kude, T., Bruch, D., & Acker, T. (2008). Agile methodologies for distributed collaborative development of enterprise applications. International conference on complex, intelligent and software intensive systems. CISIS 2008 (pp. 540–545), Barcelona. Google Scholar
  14. Kelley, T. (2001). The art of innovation. London: Profile Books Ltd.Google Scholar
  15. Kelley, T. (2008). The ten faces of innovation. London: Profile Books Ltd.Google Scholar
  16. Kniberg, H. (2007). Scrum and XP from the Trenches. InfoQ Enterprise Software Development Series.Google Scholar
  17. Larman, C., & Vodde, B. (2008). Scaling lean & agile development: Thinking and organizational tools for large-scale Scrum. Boston: Addison-Wesley Professional.Google Scholar
  18. Larman, C., & Vodde, B. (2010). Practices for scaling lean and agile development: Large, multisite, and offshore product development with large-scale scrum. Addison-Wesley Professional. Upper Saddle River, NJ: USAGoogle Scholar
  19. Leffingwell, D. (2011). Agile Software Requirements: Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs, and the Enterprise. Addison-Wesley Professional. Upper Saddle River, NJ: USA.Google Scholar
  20. Martin, R. C. (2008). Clean code: A handbook of agile software craftsmanship. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  21. Martin, R. L. (2009). The design of business: Why design thinking is the next competitive advantage. Harvard Business School Press. Boston: USA.Google Scholar
  22. Meinel, C., & Leifer, L. (2011). Design thinking: Understand – improve – apply. Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Patton, J. (2008). The new backlog. Scholar
  24. Pichler, R. (2010). Agile product management with scrum: Creating products that customers love. Amsterdam: Addison-Wesley Professional.Google Scholar
  25. Poppendieck, M. (2002). Principles of lean thinking. OOPSLA Onward.Google Scholar
  26. Poppendieck, M., & Poppendieck, T. (2003). Lean software development: An agile toolkit. Upper Saddle River: Addison-Wesley Professional.Google Scholar
  27. Reinertsen, D. G. (1997). Managing the design factory: A product developer’s toolkit. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  28. Reinertsen, D. G. (2009). The principles of product development flow: Second generation lean product development. Redondo Beach, CA: Celeritas Publishing.Google Scholar
  29. Ries E. (2011). The lean startup: How constant innovation creates radically successful businesses. Crown Publishing Group. London: UK.Google Scholar
  30. Rother, M., & MyiLibrary. (2010). Toyota kata: managing people for improvement, adaptiveness, and superior results. New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  31. Sailing Team Germany Uses. (2011). SAP Sail Better. Scholar
  32. Schnitter, J., & Mackert, O. (2011). Large-scale agile software development at SAP AG. Evaluation of Novel Approaches to Software Engineering, 230, 209–220. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-23391-3_15Google Scholar
  33. Schwaber, K., et al. (1995). Scrum development process. In OOPSLA business object design and implementation workshop (Vol. 27, pp. 10–19). Austin: TX.Google Scholar
  34. Smith, P. G., & Reinertsen, D. G. (1992). Shortening the product development cycle. Research Technology Management, 35(3), 44–49.Google Scholar
  35. Sutherland, J., & Schwaber, J. (2011). Scrum Guide, (cit. 2011).
  36. Van de Ven, A. H., & Drazin, R. (1985). The concept of fit in contingency theory. Research in Organizational Behavior, 7(3), 333–365.Google Scholar
  37. Womack, J. P., Jones, D. T. & Daniel, R. (1990). The machine that changed the world. Free Press. New York: USA.Google Scholar
  38. Womack, J. P., & Jones, D. T. (2003). Lean thinking: Banish waste and create wealth in your corporation. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  39. Yin, R. K. (2008). Case study research: Design and methods (Vol. 4). Thousand Oaks: Sage publications, Inc.Google Scholar
  40. Yin, R. K. (2011). Applications of case study research (Vol. 34). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SAP AGWalldorfGermany
  2. 2.Hasso-Plattner-Institut Academy GmbHPotsdamGermany

Personalised recommendations