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Harnessing the Power of One.

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Welcome to the final article in our Design at Scale – Academy series, focusing on the design practice in a team of ten. This piece aims to synthesise our findings into a comprehensive methodology built upon four key pillars: One Language, One Space, One Method, and One Team.

We call it the "Power of One" because it can be adapted to any industry, from fashion and transportation to healthcare, education, retail, and media and broadcasting. It's not just about agreement; it's about how a team views themselves and their work, striving to benefit the company and its customers.

Origins and Evolution

As we mentioned in previous articles the Power of One emerged in the early 2000s at the offices of Silicon Graphics, a renowned American company specialising in rendering stations for TV production, at the heart of the Europe subdivision. It has since undergone several iterations and name changes to reflect agency and in-house environments. All while maintaining its core focus: fostering unity between design, business, and engineering functions.

Understanding the Power of One

We understand that the Power of One streamlines design offerings, bringing them closer to engineering and aligning them with the strategic vision and ambition driven by business objectives. Now, let's delve deeper into the "formula" of the Power of One, empowering you to gain a competitive edge for your organization.

One language

The Power of a Unified Design Language – The "One Language" pillar of the Power of One methodology emerged from a real-world challenge across 60 global offices. Imagine the chaos of describing visual elements for a marketing campaign using diverse terms like "hello world" in different languages. As a non-native English speaker navigating thousands of names from colleagues, finding the right assets became a time-consuming struggle.

This experience sparked an idea: a simple, consistent naming convention could significantly improve efficiency. Silicon Graphics, heavily focused on engineering, the proposal for a comprehensive naming system from a designer from Europe was met with enthusiasm. After iterations influenced by the engineering team, we established patterns for atoms, elements, and components, laying the groundwork for a unified design language (this was 2003)

This predated the coining of my colleague's "atomic design" from R/GA New York – Brad Frost in 2009, but the core principle was the same: empowering the team to define naming conventions for everything from files and layers to atoms, elements, and components. This seemingly simple exercise delivered immense benefits:

Improved Organization: Information became easily navigable and translatable across languages, streamlining collaboration within and between EMEA and US offices.

Enhanced Efficiency: Finding and using assets became faster and more intuitive, saving valuable time and resources.

Scalability: This method facilitated my scaling across four EMEA and APAC offices, demonstrating its effectiveness in larger, geographically dispersed teams.

The concept of "One Language" extends beyond naming conventions. It encourages the team to agree upon and consistently use design principles, styles, and components terms. This creates a shared vocabulary that fosters understanding, communication, and collaboration, ultimately leading to more cohesive and impactful design outcomes.


The obvious challenges of inconsistent naming conventions and formatting across departments causing wasted time and decreased efficiency is unfortunately quite common. The US government released a study in 2008 stating that 48% of the time is dedicated to finding relevant information. On a global scale, several studies and reports indicate the same if not higher time wastage due to poor document management. Here are some relevant findings:

Studies:

McKinsey & Company: Estimates that knowledge workers spend 1.8 hours per day searching for information, often due to disorganized storage and naming conventions.

Aberdeen Group: Reports that companies can lose up to 20% of their productivity due to ineffective document management.

One place

Your Collaborative Hub for Design Success – The above “Language model” doesn't have personal preferences or require specific tools. Understanding the value of a unified space for design teams, amongst many others, we explored how Atlassian, Notion, and Coda in great depth. Our 20-year experience using Atlassian's Jira, Confluence, and Bitbucket highlights the crucial role of a cohesive environment in streamlining workflows and minimising distractions. In complex organisations, relying on tools that solve just one specific problem can lead to fragmentation and inefficiencies.

The Power of One Space; Imagine a single, organized, and transparent space where your entire team has access to:

  • Standard Operating Procedures
  • Solution Architecture & Information Architecture
  • Behavior Models & Navigation Models
  • Branding Guidelines & Style Guides
  • Strategy, Vision & Research Findings
  • Analytics & Integration Details
  • Release Information & Other Team Outputs

This "One Space" eliminates the need for frantic searching and endless messaging threads on Slack, WhatsApp or their equivalents. Everyone can easily access the latest information and updates, ensuring alignment and facilitating seamless collaboration. Our Design at Scale™ – Academy Courses demonstrate in great detail how to build maintain and most importantly get an advantage of synch space. 

One method

One Method: Unifying Your Design Journey – the foundation upon which all other aspects of the Power of One rest. Leveraging tools and building a unified space would be challenging without a shared approach. However, the key concept isn't necessarily picking a single, rigid methodology – the method has to stay flexible.

Design at Scale™ and Beyond:

While Design at Scale offers a structured framework for design teams, it emphasises adaptability and contextualisation. The "One Method" should reflect your team's unique needs, project specifics, and industry context.

Beyond Traditional Frameworks:

Take a standardised framework and apply it to your team. You’ll end up in three months of hassle and mental adjustment while building your product or service. The potential pitfalls of siloed workflows where different functions operate under separate methodologies usually result in significant waste in design function and a large amount of code refactoring. This often leads to confusion, delays, and inefficiencies.

Instead of choosing between pre-defined frameworks, consider:

  • Hybrid approaches: Combine elements from different methodologies like Lean UX, Agile, and Design Thinking to suit your workflow.
  • Customisable frameworks: Adapt existing frameworks like Design at Scale to align with your team's dynamics and project scope.
  • Iterative refinement: Start with a basic approach and refine it based on your team's experiences and feedback.

Key considerations to help define your "One Method":

  • What are your team's strengths and weaknesses in design delivery?
  • What are the typical project timelines you work on?
  • What level of flexibility and customisation do you need?
  • Which existing frameworks resonate with your team's existing practices and why?

By having open and honest discussions about these questions, you can collaboratively develop a "One Method" that empowers your team to deliver impactful design solutions at scale.

One team

Tribal Leadership and Shared Success – Trevor Moawad assertion in "It Takes What It Takes" resonates deeply: every team has a shelf life, a year to prove itself or risk stagnation. Unfortunately, many teams fail to recognise this reality. They operate in silos, delivering value in isolated bursts (one or two releases), hindering their true potential.

The "One Team" principle transcends mere collaboration. It embraces tribal leadership, where each member holds a specific role and expertise. This isn't about individual glory but shared responsibility for delivering high-quality outputs and achieving impactful outcomes.

Product Owners vs Tribal Leaders

In this framework, product owners (or design leadership) must evolve beyond traditional roles to become educators, enablers, and coaches.
Their mission is simple:

  • Unlocking the team's potential: By understanding each member's strengths and fostering a culture of learning and growth, product owners empower the team to reach their full potential.
  • Creating an environment of respect and ownership: When team members feel valued, trusted, and in control of their work, they're more engaged, motivated, and accountable.
  • Facilitating collaboration and communication: Effective communication across all levels is crucial. Product owners act as bridges, ensuring transparency and alignment between the team, stakeholders, and the broader business goals.


The benefits of Tribal Leadership are un-equivalent to previous methods such as Prince2, Waterfall and LeSS framework that was impossible to:    

  • Increased efficiency and productivity: By working as a cohesive unit, teams can eliminate redundancies, streamline workflows, and deliver results faster.
  • Enhanced innovation: Diverse perspectives and expertise lead to more creative solutions and problem-solving approaches.
  • Improved employee satisfaction: Feeling valued, empowered, and part of a larger purpose boosts morale, engagement, and reduces turnover.
  • Greater impact on the business: When teams are aligned and focused on shared goals, they can achieve significant business outcomes that individual efforts cannot.

Impact

The Power of One: Unleashing Unprecedented Impact – the "One Language, One Space, One Method, One Team" framework delivers transformative results, forging a unified environment where teams thrive. Here's a glimpse of the remarkable impact this approach can generate by enhanced speed and efficiency:

  • 25% faster delivery: Streamlined workflows, reduced communication overhead, and a shared understanding of processes enable teams to work cohesively and deliver projects more swiftly.
  • 22% reduction in operational budgets: Improved resource allocation, minimized time wasted on miscommunication, and optimized workflows lead to significant cost savings.
  • 16% faster time to market: Efficient decision-making, aligned efforts, and minimised rework allow teams to bring products and services to market quicker, capitalising on early adopter advantages.
  • 12% increase in research and testing budget: Freed-up resources from faster delivery, reduced budget overheads, and minimised rework unlock funds for deeper research and rigorous testing, fueling innovation.
  • 43% reduction in cluttered communication: Standardized practices, centralised resources, and transparent workflows eliminate communication ambiguity and wasted time, enabling seamless collaboration and information sharing.
  • Integrated resources: A unified space housing all essential resources fosters easy access and ensures everyone leverages the latest information, maximising the value of resources.

Remember, the above figures are averages from all our implementations, and the actual impact will vary depending on your specific context, team size, industry and implementation.

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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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