Green Threads was an early precursor to many of the outside-in design principles we see in IBM today. It captured user design scenarios across a set of products that solve a customer problem. It moved our organization beyond product thinking.

I was a part of the IBM Rational Green Threads team from 2005 to 2012 and its merger into the IBM Rational Design Factory team.


Green Thread Goals

  • Cross-product solution team moving our organisation beyond point product thinking
  • Deliver solutions that really work to solve real-world customer problems
  • Build virtual teams across subject matter experts, product teams and solution architects to define solution scenario
  • Identify and prioritise key issues and roadblocks to product development
  • Work with point product teams on ownership and prioritization
  • Provide guidance and recommendations for field to use now
  • Identifying progress measurements and indicators


  • Workflow across a set of products to solve a complex customer problem
  • End-to-end workflow a customer might follow to accomplish a particular goal or handle a specific situation/event
  • Reflects real-world usage and scenarios
  • Demonstrates an optimal workflow
  • Document the “As Is” flow – Define a “To Be” flow
  • Try to match green threads to Rational market strategy (solutions & segments)


  • Multiple green threads, each with a different focus, for example Business-Driven Development, System in Trouble, Deployment, Software Development Governance, Solution Delivery and Management, Global Development and Delivery, Systems Development, SOA Deployment, Collaborative Application Lifecycle Management, Agility at Scale.
  • Span relevant products from Rational, Tivoli, WebSphere, Lotus, DB2
  • Continuously updated for new product releases
  • Each GT reflects a specific usage scenario, not all possible scenarios
  • Current threads started after products delivered. Over time, they will catch up and get ahead of product schedules (e.g., feed Drake concept)

Way of Working

The Green thread method follows a set of steps to define the as-is solution scenarios, the longer term vision and the improvements steps to get to that solution vision.

The individual steps are:

  1. Identify and Prioritise Scenarios – Goals and Scope
  2. Detail and Document Tasks – As-Is flow
  3. Walkthru / Execute Scenario
  4. Identify Issues and Product Requirements
  5. Provide tactical recommendations
  6. Guidance and artefacts for field engagements
  7. Long-term Vision – To-Be flow
  8. Incremental Product Improvements
  9. RFEs and defects to product teams
  10. Milestone Assessments

The Green thread method uses a standard overview of the solution scenario. The overview outlines the personas, the actions performed, the flow of events and the offerings or tools in the solution used for the actions. The solution improvements in the to-be vision is tracked by tool and by solution release. Examples of green thread outcomes below.

Example of GreenThread scenario summary.



Example of GreenThread As-Is assessment


Example of tracking incremental product improvements



Learn more about IBM Design and IBM Design Thinking on