How I Used My Agile and Design Thinking Toolkit to Navigate the Unknown and Drive Change
Lymari Castro

As a Technical Lead and Systems Engineer for the Department of Defense (DoD), I took a one year career broadening assignment to be an external change agent at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) with the task of leading a change management effort within the Engineering organization. For years, the organization faced the challenge of providing timely engineering support given the highly competitive science environment, multiple competing priorities, and its evolving workforce. At the end of my assignment (12 months), the organization identified new ways of doing work that resulted in incremental engineering support, increased reuse of information, and more timely recognition of the workforce. To accomplish this change, I used an Agile and Design Thinking toolkit that created excitement for change in the organization while delivering high value solutions.

During my talk I will share how I applied Agile and Design Thinking to:

• Learn the organization and culture,

• Overcome skepticism and build trust,

• Make the change process fun for the organization,

• Break organizational silos,

• Maintain the momentum for change, and

• Create a joint vision of a path for change.

I will share what worked and did not, the results achieved, and what I was able to bring back to DoD when my assignment ended. The following individuals will benefit from this session: Systems Engineers, Managers, Executives, Program Managers, Project Directors, Organizational Change Agents, and anyone interested in learning how agile and design thinking can be used to drive organizational change.

Learning Objectives
Below are my key takeaways from the experience that I want to share with you:

• Get to know them first. I started my work using the lean startup approach. This approach allowed to quickly getting to know the key stakeholders and create empathy with the organization. It also provided an effective way of capturing role-dependent pains, gains, and opportunities thus highlighting organizational gaps.

• Learn and pivot. Using the lean startup approach I only touched the tip of the iceberg and I did not have a holistic view of the organizational nor was I getting closer to the real problems and their potential solutions. At that point I pivot to an agile and design thinking approach.

• Overcome the skepticism with incremental wins. Most people in the organization were not familiar with the techniques and doubted of their benefits and their application to be successful. By delivery incremental outcomes, I was able to prove success, overcome the doubts, and build trust.

• Take the burden off busy people. Using the principles of agile (incremental deliveries, an iterative/incremental approach, frequent feedback) was an effective mechanism to gradually move people through the change process without imposing big time commitments from their part.

• Make it fun! The use of the design thinking approach made the process of identifying the right problems and high value solutions enjoyable for the organization and created excitement and ownership. In addition it helped break organizational silos by making people at all levels of the organization work together towards a common goal.

• Keep them informed. Frequent stakeholder engagement sparked interests and the effort went from a grassroots effort to a high priority activity for the organization; and it also provided additional insights to adjust the approach based on feedback.

• Give them a path for change. Identify the goals, outcomes and key results to be accomplished with a clear timeline.

• Offer support after you are gone. Be available to them after your job is done. That will keep the momentum going.
Learning Level
Session Type
Experience Report