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Eye on the Release.

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Welcome back to our Design at Scale – Academy series, focusing on the design practice in a team of ten. After becoming a “Thought Leader” and adjusting your “Daily Routines”, you understand what “Design Management” is and the fact every designer has a responsibility: delivering impactful design for the upcoming release.

However, solely focusing on output without alignment can often lead to overwork and creating "artefacts" without real impact on the customer. Today's article, therefore, aims to explore this specific challenge and look at how to address and overcome it. 

Perfectionist

Many designers are self-proclaimed perfectionists. This dedication to craft is often routed in the psychological endeavours of their early childhood. There is plenty of literature describing this phenomenon. It might be admirable at first, but it often leads to creating an unnecessary workload for the current release. Remember, design isn't exclusively about aesthetics; it's about functionality and user experience. It's a constant balancing act between "how it works", "how it behaves”, and “how it looks.” Let's delve deeper into real-world scenarios that often jeopardise the release and prevent teams from succeeding:

Feature Creep

Let’s say you're designing a new login screen. Perfectionism takes over, and you explore numerous scenarios and different behavioural patterns, animations, and micro-interactions. While admirable, this might not align with the release goals. Sometimes, we call these small fixes, yet time has proved that they are more of a hurdle than an added value to the overall experience.

  • What's truly essential for a smooth login experience? 
  • What do the core elements do? 
  • How do they behave first?
  • What is the smallest launchable design possible?

Documentation Obsession

Comprehensive documentation is vital, but know when to "pull the trigger." Creating extensive style guides for every minor component might delay release and add little value. Prioritise documenting key elements directly influencing the current release's success. We strongly suggest writing documentation as we go. We embody the mindset, “What is the minimal amount of knowledge I need for this feature /behaviour to be implemented.” 

Prioritising User Value: A Delivery Team Mindset 

Imagine the product design delivery team as a pit crew focused on a single goal: getting the best possible product into the hands of users fast. This translates to prioritising designs that directly impact the end user's experience. The key question here becomes: 

"What are we delivering for the customer, and when will they see it?"

Every design decision carries weight. While it's tempting to get lost in "future-proofing" with potentially better solutions, remember your current users are waiting. Derailing from the immediate goal can leave them stuck with limitations from past releases, unable to fully enjoy the product's potential.

Aligning Design with Delivery

As design professionals, we have a fundamental responsibility: understanding our current position and the steps necessary for the next release. This ensures our efforts directly contribute to user value.

I strongly advocate for a weekly self-assessment with the product owner, or at least a business analyst, to clearly identify which design elements are slated for the upcoming release. This ensures everyone's on the same page and avoids wasted effort on the design front.

The reality might vary. Sometimes, designers may be ahead of development, but in smaller teams, it's common to work side by side. This means what you design in one week likely gets built the next. Therefore, it's crucial to prioritise designing behaviours, navigation, and mental models that can be readily translated into code and iteratively refined.

Remember, design is no longer about creating pixel-perfect masterpieces in isolation. It's about delivering impactful solutions that solve real user problems within the constraints of the development cycle. By adopting this "aligned design" approach, you become a strategic partner, ensuring your design efforts directly contribute to user value and business success.


Continuous collaboration and iteration with your engineering colleagues are the fuel that propels product improvement. This dynamic duo drives "velocity," allowing the team to consistently refine and enhance the product, both daily and weekly. For the product owner, this partnership offers remarkable agility. It empowers them to anticipate and adapt to unforeseen challenges while addressing current issues head-on. Imagine having real-time insights into potential roadblocks before they derail progress.

From a design perspective, this creates a unique scenario. We can rapidly sketch out "Wi-Fi frames" representing intended user behaviour, iteratively improving screen designs as we go. Simultaneously, we contribute to the design system, feeding it with core branding, forms, and colour palettes. As each component evolves, its improvement is instantly visible to the engineering team through accessible prototypes. This collaborative approach significantly reduces the mountain of documentation often required once the foundation is laid, allowing us to seamlessly transition to the detailing phase.

The Power of Iteration: Unlocking Agility and Value

This collaborative, iterative approach has proven immensely impactful, particularly for small and medium-sized teams of 5 to 15 members. It empowers us to deliver tangible results on a weekly basis, with well-oiled teams even releasing polished products within 5 to 10 sprints. This rapid iteration cycle doesn't just benefit design and development; it demonstrably impacts the business and fuels further innovation.

Startups we collaborate with experience the agility firsthand. They never wait three months for their propositions to be fully fleshed out and translated into basic code. We deliver in 8-hour increments that address the challenge at hand. This swiftness fuels their growth and allows them to capitalise on fleeting opportunities.

Inspiring Change: Leading Your Team to Embrace Iteration

You might be thinking, 

"This all sounds fantastic, but how can I get my team on board with Design at Scale™?"

If you have specific questions or concerns from your team, we can certainly address them in a free coaching session – OnUs. The beauty of the Design at Scale™ framework lies in its versatility. It's adaptable to any team size and can be tailored to specific needs by mixing and matching its "ingredients." Here are some tips to motivate your team and set them on the path of collaborative, transparent design delivery:

1. Lead by Example: Actively participate in the collaborative design process, demonstrating its value through your own actions.

2. Open Communication: Foster a culture of open communication and feedback, encouraging team members to share their concerns and ideas openly.

3. Focus on Benefits: Highlight the concrete benefits of iteration, such as faster time to market, reduced risk, and improved efficiency.

4. Celebrate Successes: Recognize and celebrate individual and team achievements throughout the iterative process.

5. Seek Feedback: Regularly solicit feedback from your team on the collaborative design process, adapting based on their input.

The Power of Prototyping

To lead by the real example showcasing the transformative power of the DaS™ method – here is one of its implementations:

A design team of six (service designers, UI designers, and a manager) faced the challenge of mapping the FX trading onboarding process for a major UK financial institution. The junior members meticulously researched and interviewed stakeholders for three and a half months. However, upon leadership changes, priorities shifted. Instead of crafting a large, static experience map, the team pivoted towards a rapid prototyping approach. Within two weeks, they built a simple prototype encompassing the insights learned in the previous stage instead of a lengthy user journey. The prototype became a powerful anchor point that:

Validate the Idea: It concretised the onboarding concept, making it tangible and relatable for stakeholders to make an informed decision.

Shifting the Conversation: Instead of focusing on lengthy documentation, the prototype sparked productive discussions about implementation and cost reduction.

Securing Budget: By demonstrating the potential impact, the prototype helped secure funding for streamlining the onboarding process.

Driving Results: Ultimately, the iterative approach led to a remarkable reduction in onboarding time, from 176 days to just nine working days!


The above scenario illustrates the benefits of the prototype, but how about DaS™:

Faster Feedback: Prototyping facilitates quicker feedback loops, enabling course correction and improvement early on, especially with our engineering colleagues. 

Focused Efforts: It directs energy towards practical solutions rather than extensive documentation shared across hundreds of emails.

Stakeholder Engagement: Tangible prototypes spark more engaging interaction and open play before you pay mentality. 

Impactful Results: Our approach led to data-driven decisions demonstrating seamless user experience and clear business outcomes (for the team, operation, client and save time) 

Unlocking Efficiency and Value

This scenario highlights the power of combining diverse expertise (service design) and iterative (product) design. Despite budget constraints and change to leadership, we adopted a better and more transparent approach:

By recognising limitations, we sought innovative solutions by leveraging existing findings in the form of tangible prototypes. Instead of costly improvements of one single mapping exercise, we created a quick demonstration of a user-friendly authentication process that saves time. Our prototype further revealed that regulatory obligation could be met while simplifying authentication, especially for multiple currency transactions.
This significantly reduced overall user interaction time and dependency on the system from weeks to a single minute.

The translation of the impact was simple: the impact was imminent, and the number showed the savings internally and on the client side. We have saved over 160 days for the client side to wait for the response. Reduce the cost of regulatory checks for different countries. Finally, optimised the workflow to reach the market 23% faster than originally planned, saving businesses 7% of their yearly operational budget.

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Tagged: agile · coaching · collaboration · cx · dastm · design · designatscale · designer2designer · framework · madebyhuman · management · mentoring · Method · organisations · process · scale · sme · startup · ux · ways_of_working
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