Design Centric Thinking is challenging traditional methods of initiating projects, so what is it and why does it deliver where the traditional business case approach often fails?

There is a comprehensive body of evidence that shows that if a project is more than 15% complete and off-track, then it has a very low chance of ever getting back on track.

It’s a startling reality. With over ten years of project delivery behind us, Quay has seen this systemic issue time and again, and we’ve long understood that the processes around project initiation determine the likelihood of success from the outset.

Traditional project initiation processes focus on the creation of a business case and a high level project plan, with focus on management controls and benefits management and light touch on stakeholder management, risk management, financial management, organisational governance and resource management.

As a proponent of P3M3, we understand that these are critical factors for successful project delivery.

But what if you could take a different approach to project initiation that has proven so successful it has more than sixty percent of Fortune 500 companies using it to achieve rapid transformation and successful outcomes?

Design Centric Thinking is changing the way that companies kick off projects so that right out of the blocks, they are headed for success. The likelihood of success increases significantly as key indicators of success are put in place: clearly defined scope, outcomes, shared vision, engaged stakeholders and joint ownership.

So what is Design Centric Thinking all about and why does it work?

Collaborating to Solve Problems

Put simply, Design Centric Thinking means using collaboration to solve problems or create solutions using design, whereby:

  • Decisions are not made by majority rules or voting
  • Decisions are not made by one party speaking louder than another (i.e. the strongest voice wins)
  • Decisions are not made by making compromises

The goal is to bring the right people into the right environment to make the right decisions for solving the right problem. It’s a collaborative and iterative way of working that accelerates problem solving and creates deep alignment and ownership around a solution.

The collaboration ultimately concludes with a design event: A carefully choreographed session that combines people, process, and environment to unlock the collective wisdom of participants in an energised and stimulating manner, where outcomes are rapidly realised, tested, discarded, morphed or enhanced – or any combination of these.


There is a belief that the citizen holds the answer. In the same way, people in the room have the solution to your problem: All that’s needed are the right conditions to draw that out. People – or, participants – are hand-picked for the knowledge they bring to the table and not because they have a pre-determined answer or because they will support a pre-determined decision.

A rich diversity of people is going to make your event come alive and generate the kind of energy needed to elevate a problem out of the constraints of current thinking.


The environment for a Design Centric Thinking event should be bespoke to that particular event. It is a container which supports decision-making and is created with the philosophy that everything within it speaks. When we design an environment, we are designing the conditions for immersion, collaboration and emergence.


The method that enables an event to transform organisation is a well-proven methodology (we use MG Taylor); an evolving approach to group facilitation that focuses on solving complexity and accelerating outcomes.

It leverages tools and processes that are deeply rooted in design and education and has been immensely successful for over 40 years. It has also been behind tens of thousands of game-changing transformations in the business, political and social sectors.

When undertaken the Design Centric approach it will ensure your project is set-up for success from the start as by its very nature it:

  • Focuses on the business issue; from strategic ‘what should we do?’ challenges, through to tactical and technical ‘how should we implement?’ problems, and the spectrum in between
  • Can enable teams to achieve months-worth of work in mere days
  • Involves end users in the design process who are deeply committed to the success of the solution. Change management programs become relieved of the resistance often felt in trying to sell a solution imposed upon employees or customers. Participants become the greatest allies in championing the change
  • Allows a safe working space to fail fast and fail cheap. You don’t want to fail in the market, or in your wider organisation
  • Fosters collaborative working, energetic new thinking and new relationships. The perception shifts to problem solving as a challenge worth meeting; collaboration becomes the vehicle for rapid change. An organisation that works in this way finds a cultural change towards high performing teams; and one which occurs organically.
  • Rapidly achieves outcomes that deposit time and money back into the organisation by not spending it on outdated problems solving methods. This enables your team to refocus energies on new opportunities, maintain currency in the marketplace (if that’s your goal) or accelerate the organisation forward to become innovators.

Design Centric Thinking Delivers Better Outcomes

In a business environment that is becoming more – not less – reliant on projects to achieve business outcomes, delivering successful projects is crucial. Design Centric Thinking is here to stay and we see it increasingly being an enabler for better project outcomes.

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To speak to our team about how we can help your business deliver better projects, please contact us.

About Quay

Quay Consulting
Quay Consulting is a professional services business specialising in the project landscape, transforming strategy into fit-for-purpose delivery. Meet our team ...