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Agile Flexibility with Set-Based Design

Updated: Apr 13

“It does not take much to do things, but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do.” ~ Elbert Hubbard

We always make decisions; even not making any decision is a decision. Some decisions are based on facts and details but sometimes, we have to decide without enough facts or details. Not only in life but also in businesses we have to go through such situations. When we identify problems we often tend to make a potential list of solutions and select the best suitable one from the list. The lists of solutions are made on basis of facts and details along with the best combination of cost, energy, and time. But in some situations, we are not clear about all the facts related to the problem so we need to go with our intuition or assumptions. In agile we use set-based design practice to keep the design option flexible for the longest possible in the development period for such problematic situations.


Set-based design helps to enhance flexibility in process of design where the technical solution is committed only after validation of assumptions so that the solutions may create better economic results. With the set-based design, teams carry on with the decision only after they gain sufficient required knowledge and information. To achieve it they maintain multiple design options and requirements in the development cycle for a longer period. As time passes by and the process moves forward they use empirical data for narrowing the focus on the final design option. Set-based design helps agile embrace economic efficiency, flexibility in design, and interface in lean product development.


The Difference Between Set-Based and Point-Based Design



Set-based design (SBD) defines feasible design space and then narrows it by removing the regions that make the solution weaker. Instead in a point-based, the iterations are carried out on every idea by modifying it to achieve the required objectives and performance.

In set-based, a group of every possible idea is communicated. In point-based single best suitable idea only is communicated.

Set-based design look for an intersection to achieve the total system requirement. Whereas, the point-based provides teams with budget and constraints.


Set-Based Design Increase Economic Efficiency

When teams are integrated with a set-based design then system engineering/architect explains components and sub-systems for solutions and architectural options. Further teams search for multiple alternative ideas for sub-systems and then filter them so that it provides less economic value or are defective that can’t make up to the target or violate the laws.

With the set-based design, teams explore alternatives with hypothesis-driven minimum variable product approaching with a lean start-up mindset. This design alternative consists of assumptions and hypotheses. The minimum variable product can define an experiment that helps in gaining the knowledge to validate and invalidate these hypotheses, eliminate alternatives and help in arriving at an optimal economic decision.

To achieve the design efficiency some practices are described below.


Increase Flexibility in Interfaces and Design

Traditionally, the decisions are taken based on early and old knowledge that is based on minimal understanding. Set-based design decisions are taken on validating learning. Final specifications and designs are based on the teams exploring alternatives, knowledge, and trade-off understandings. It defines a connection between the sub-systems and provides teams context to negotiate their interface. Lean allows the interfaces to vary at the point of sus-system intersections. Different allocations with different specifications will improve the values. This approach helps system engineers to manage the system-level allocation and hence helps teams make their own decisions. This will create a collaborative environment for learning, negotiation, and economic decision.


Frequent Integration



In the development period uncertainty are sure as new designs are explored. Important knowledge is limited. In such a situation the only way for resolving uncertainty is too early and frequent test design alternatives with the integration of system components. These integration points are driven in part by system demo and solution demo occurring on two-week stroke and longer program increment stoke respectively.

Without these integration points, the set-based design may form a false sense of security and even risk as not a single design alternative may not reach the required target.


The worst decision you can make is no decision.” In agile, there is no method of not deciding to select the most suitable alternative for your project and identify, act and acquire the target.




About Advance Agility

We, at Advance Agility, are the new-age Agile Coaching, Consulting and IT services company. We enable end-to-end Digital Transformation. Agile execution is integral to our being. We are doing SAFe implementation with small, medium and large organization across the globe. Our vision is to be the leading Agile execution player globally. To keep adding value at every process stage. We are on a mission to empower our clients, move from concept to cash in the shortest sustainable lead time by adopting human centric approach to business agility. Embracing the change is in our DNA. Things that keep us apart are Quicker and Seamless execution with End-to-end gamut of services. Our Global presence and Stellar Track Record give us an edge over our competitor.


Connect with us at advanceagility.com to learn about SAFe and SAFe Implementation. Write to us at contact@advanceagilty.com for any agile training or consulting needs. We are always looking for competent agile trainers as well. So if you are a good trainer or want to become one, do get in touch with us to that we can learn, grow and achieve together.


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