It’s probably safe to say that many of the best early web-people were first exposed to Agile-like methods via the iterative discipline that is User Centred Design. So it seems useful to look at how well UCD has fared, and whether it’s suffered the same ‘Scrumbut’ type compromises when its come face to face with the world and people as it is, rather than how we’d like it to be.

When I came across this self-reflective article, it rang bells for me from some (by no means all) Agile practise I’ve seen and read, and I wonder whether the Agile community is able to do the same hansei and see where these problems occur in our daily work.

Empirical Measurement

I really don’t want to get caught up in the specifics to detract from the major point, except in one area, which is a real bugbear for me: proving that your proposals work, rather than just axiomatically stating some agitprop principles as being “better ways”.

don’t get me started on measuring your designs. It seems designers love anything that means they can avoid measuring things. Whether it’s the pervasive idea that you only need to test with five random passers-by or yet another UX missionary saying that analytics can only tell us the what, not the why, designers latch on to anti-measurement ideas like a pitbull with lockjaw.

Why? Because measuring the effect of designs risks that the numbers will show the designs don’t work. So if designers want to just design things like they think they should work, measurement is a threat.


I came to this via a different angle — via very strongly data driven Direct Marketing where everything is simply the current best hypothesis, and there are always better ways to do it, whether you derive a challenger from direct feedback or breakthrough inspiration, you test it and prove it on a small scale before heavily investing.

Lean thinking is utterly founded on this empirical approach. If your practise isn’t, and is simply relying on axiomatic assertions, then may I point you to the closing footnote to the article:

And we wonder why no one gives us a seat at the strategy table…


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