Integrating a Lean UX Process

A quick start guide to getting started with a Lean UX approach to product design and development

Chris Compston
May 6, 2017 · Unlisted


When a design team first ventures into the Agile world of product development it can often feel like design is left by the wayside. It’s not uncommon for designers to struggle with understanding where their role, or the tasks they complete, fit into iterative product development.

What this guide is

This is a kickstart guide to Lean UX which discusses some of the most important principles and actions to start with. A team can take this guide to integrate a Lean UX process in a practical and realistic manner, taking small steps to ensure that the team is not disrupted and the wider business accepts this new way of working.

What this guide isn’t

This guide is certainly not to replace the fantastic Lean UX book by Jeff Gotthelf and Josh Sneiden, nor will it ever be able to detail the process in the depth they have. Reading that book is essential to understanding the methods involved, others in the Lean Series and also Lean Experimentation by Maryam Aidini and Kylie Castellaw are equally insightful.

Who the guide is for

Lean UX is not just for designers and this guide will help teams to see the value of collaborative product design and development. The change to Lean UX might start with designers but this is a method for the whole product team and they need to understand and embrace it to be successful.

  • For Design Leads that have dipped their toe in the water of Agile design processes with a ‘Sprint Zero’ method — soon realising that it’s just upfront design but in shorter iterations.
  • For Product Owners, Scrum Masters, Business Analysts and Software Engineers that have endured the pain of transitioning from a Waterfall development process to Agile. Where they still have exhaustive upfront design supplied to them, when design is often seen as the blocker to development or design is too prescriptive and technically unfeasible.
  • For Product Managers that have realised measuring the success of a product is best done by highlighting the value features bring to customers and therefore the business (outcomes) and not on how many (output), and the speed of which (velocity), features are built.
  • For Business Leaders that are trying to move their company up the Corporate UX Maturity scale and are starting to realise the importance of a User Centred Design process and the team taking ownership of their decisions.

Part One: What, Why, Who, How

These are the basics of what Lean UX is, why companies are starting to use the process, who it works for and an overview of how to use it. This section is a top level view of Lean UX and as this is only a guide in how to integrate it into a team or business it’s best to read Lean UX by Jeff Gotthelf and Josh Sneiden for full details on the process and how to implement it.

Part Two: First steps to integrating Lean UX

There are fifteen principles to Lean UX and all are equally important. This part of the guide will focus on those principles but to make them more digestible they’ve been reorganised into three categories: ‘The Team’, ‘The Measurement’ and ‘The Process’.

  • Principle 2: Small, Dedicated, Colocated
  • Principle 9: Shared Understanding
  • Principle 10: Anti Pattern: Rockstars
  • Shared understanding comes from cross functional, dedicated teams.
  • There’s no place for ‘out for themselves’ individuals.
  • If this step is successful on an initial feature then add two developers to work with them on the next. Give this smaller sub-team a feature to work on, a two week timeframe and the space to work without distractions.
  • Conduct a retrospective at the end to determine if the team setup was successful. If it works, let this smaller team stay together for future iterations and slowly scale it to the rest of the team based on these learnings.
  • Principle 4: Problem Focused Teams
  • Principle 14: Permission to Fail
  • Principle 15: Getting Out of the Deliverables Business
  • Build trust and gain influence with stakeholders before changing measurements.
  • Measure success based on outcomes, not output or velocity.
  • To be at their most creative the team must focus on solving problems.
  • Failure is a tool for learning and should be accepted as such.
  • Ask business stakeholders or management to provide you with metrics to measure the success of the feature. If they’re not able to provide any then use your customer analytics to determine your own.
  • Allow the sub-team to solve a business problem rather than design a specific feature. Make sure the team know that validating the outcomes of a business metric is more important than showcasing design deliverables.
  • Principle 6: Small Batch Size
  • Principle 7: Continuous Discovery
  • Principle 8: Get Out Of the Building
  • Principle 11: Externalising Your Work
  • Principle 12: Making over Analysis
  • Principle 13: Learning over Growth
  • Follow the ‘build, measure, learn’ philosophy for greater results.
  • To increase collaboration get design work out for all to see and discuss.
  • Speak to real customers early and often to ensure the team are building the right product for them.
  • Test your assumptions with real customers if possible, if that’s not an option then at least get real people outside of your office building to provide you with feedback. Experimenting with real customers can be done in the live product, however you must ensure that measurement of the feedback and the associated learnings actually evolve the product.
  • Start small and learn as you progress; use your assumptions created with the Lean UX canvas to define a hypothesis and experiments to validate it. Defining and creating a minimum viable product can be very useful, but be careful when setting expectations with management and stakeholders as they may have a different understanding of the term.

Part Three: Challenges and Risks

Battling terminology and buzzwords
With every new process comes a barrage of terminology to understand and buzzwords to trip over. These can cause confusion and problems, not only within the team but also with business stakeholders that care little about the meaning behind the jargon and just want to see progress.

Part Four: Even quicker actions you can take today!

Integrating a Lean UX process is no quick and easy task, there will often be blockers inside and outside of the team. However using these three actions on the next feature, product or project can be done without even uttering ‘Lean UX’ or the adoption of a new process to anyone.

  • Action 2: Ask what the business problem is
    To ensure you’re able to validate the outcome when the feature is live, ask the Product Owner/Manager/Stakeholder for a measurable success metric. Getting one from the business will help you provide real world examples in the future to build trust, however if they aren’t forthcoming you can define your own metrics based on usage data.
  • Action 3: Write down some assumptions
    When the Product Owner/Manager/Stakeholder gives your next feature to design, simply write down some of the assumptions you have about how customers might use it. Doing this will give you the focus in usability testing sessions, allow you to validate your thinking and make changes to the feature based on real user feedback.

Final Thoughts

To get a more thorough holistic understanding of Lean processes and principles my advice is to read the Lean UX book and others in the Lean series. It’s important to note that this guide is to help take those first steps towards a more Lean approach, that’s hard and can be slow. It’s not easy to integrate a whole process right from the get go.

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Chris Compston

Written by

Product Design — Farfetch

Product Management Insider

The exclusive data and insights that enable 17,000+ product managers to win. Subscribe via email at We are powered by Alpha.

Chris Compston

Written by

Product Design — Farfetch

Product Management Insider

The exclusive data and insights that enable 17,000+ product managers to win. Subscribe via email at We are powered by Alpha.

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