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Transparency.

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Welcome back to our Design at Scale™—Academy series, focusing on design practice in a team of one hundred. This article will explore the importance of the simple phenomenon called design transparency in the business.

In a previous article, we explored transparency's role in empowering teams to leverage information broadcast through internal channels. This article examines the opposite end of the spectrum:  bureaucratic organisations lack agility.

Imagine a corporate landscape riddled with silos, obscured budgets, ambiguous targets, and miscommunicated results.  Add to this a mix of unclear requirements,  confusing instructions, and an absence of well-defined "ready" or "done" criteria.  This fosters a culture where navigating the work environment and achieving effectiveness becomes an uphill battle for many.

Inclusive culture

While single-handedly transforming a culture might seem unrealistic, a strategic and passionate individual can ignite a spark for positive change.  With a well-defined agenda promoting inclusivity and transparency,  designers are uniquely positioned to champion this initiative.

Designers have a distinct advantage: comprehensive access to information across various departments.  This vantage point allows them to identify and bridge communication gaps between silos.  Through data visualisation techniques like diagrams and user research presentations, designers can effectively communicate customer needs and translate complex information into clear, actionable insights.

Furthermore, designers possess the skills to organise charts, budgets, expenditures, and projections into easily understandable formats. This fosters collaboration and empowers engineering teams to deliver robust, user-friendly design systems that can be readily implemented through simple prompts or command-line interfaces.

Military and Sports

Rethinking Team Models in Business

Many leadership books reference military or sports teams as ideal business models. However, these analogies often overlook a key distinction: both military and sports teams are primarily assembled to win. Business teams, on the other hand,  function differently. They comprise individuals with diverse expertise, objectives, and key performance indicators (KPIs).

Let's deconstruct these military and sports metaphors:

  • Military:  Military units prioritise a clear, hierarchical chain of command. This ensures tasks are completed efficiently, and objectives are met within specific timeframes.  Soldiers are trained to be meticulous and highly skilled to avoid jeopardising fellow team members.
  • Sports:  Consider a cycling team.  While everyone pedals in the same direction under similar conditions, each cyclist has unique strengths and fulfils specific tactical roles.  Those needing to conserve energy will strategically pace themselves for a strong finish, ensuring the team's overall success.

The Business Team Model

Despite their differences, both military and sports teams share a common objective: collective success, regardless of individual recognition.  Their achievements are measured in comparison to other units or competitors.

However, in a business context, success is not solely about winning against competitors.  Business teams should strive for a balance between individual contributions and collective goals. Recognition can be both individual and team-based, fostering a more nuanced and motivating environment.

Infinite game

In the business world, particularly at the intersection of Business, Design, and Development, success hinges on more than just individual teams.  The true magic lies in uniting diverse talents towards a shared objective.  However, assembling the "perfect" team capable of achieving this goal is not simply a matter of finding compatible individuals.

Several challenges arise that require attention before project commencement.  Focusing solely on aligning individual behaviours and fostering competition between departments can place the team at a disadvantage, ultimately hindering the probability of success.

Simon Sinek, in his book "Start With Why," emphasises that business environments are not  competitive sprints but rather  "infinite games."  This philosophy resonates with the approach taken by the CEO of Netflix, as evidenced by his focus on assembling teams for specific missions rather than short-term goals.

The "infinite game" perspective should be a top priority for any large organisation.  While tactical "firefighting" teams may exist to address immediate issues,  well-maintained, long-term teams consistently outperform hastily assembled groups focused on singular problems.  The intricate nature of large organisations necessitates a deep knowledge base that cannot be effectively transferred or embedded within the workforce in a short timeframe.

Transparency 

Finally, transparency fosters trust among colleagues.  Senior team members with deep institutional knowledge can effectively educate new hires.  These veterans,  respected for their craftsmanship and the cutting-edge knowledge they bring from previous experiences,  become mentors.

Transparency transcends departmental boundaries, fostering knowledge exchange between design, development, business, accounting, and even interns.  This cross-pollination of expertise enhances departmental performance and the organisation's overall impact.

Ideally, this collaborative environment can be structured as follows:

Business

Integrating design and engineering teams into the initial stages of proposition shaping sets the organisation up for success.  This collaborative approach involves communicating both the project's core objectives and the potential challenges associated with customer migration from one product to another.

Large organizations understand that customer base migration can be a disruptive process.  Including  design and development from the outset allows for subtle friction reduction through the introduction of  appropriate migration paths for different customer segments.

Furthermore, this integrated approach enables data-driven decision-making.  By jointly reviewing research and analysing data, the entire team can leverage insights gleaned from gathered information rather than relying solely on assumptions.

Design

In customer migration scenarios, the design assumes the role of a guide, facilitating a smooth transition to their new product or service.  Visual language elements,  strategic use of colour and messaging cues integrated within the existing product can gently introduce customers to the upcoming generational shift.

This early communication provides valuable lead time for the development team to create the new offering and prepare a seamless transition experience.  By introducing these evolutionary design changes, the perception of a massive overhaul is mitigated.  Customers are instead eased into the new proposition through a series of subtle introductions.

This collaborative approach empowers the design team to methodically plan, organise and deliver all necessary design assets to the development team in a timely manner,  ensuring a smooth and efficient handover.

Development 

The aforementioned strategies allow our engineering teams to prioritise core delivery tasks.  This includes dedicating ample time to building the new proposition.  Once fully developed and rigorously tested, the new features can be progressively introduced across all versions, facilitating iterative testing and data-driven decisions regarding the optimal transition approach.

This phased approach also promotes efficiency through reusability.  Engineering teams can leverage existing components and codebases as a foundation for the new product, minimising redundant development efforts.

Similarly, the design team establishes a design language for the new application.  This established language can then be strategically integrated into the existing product, ensuring a cohesive user experience across both offerings.

Finally, with a solid development and design foundation in place, the business unit can effectively plan marketing and communication campaigns to announce the update to the existing customer base.  This ensures a smooth rollout and maximises the impact of the new service or product launch.

Write Your Own Story
Write Your Own Story

Transparency throughout the development cycle demonstrably accelerates delivery speed and improves overall quality.  By fostering open communication,  all team members,  including designers and developers,  gain a clear understanding of project stages, individual deliverables, and testing progress.  This visibility empowers them to address any unforeseen challenges that may arise proactively.  Consequently, the team predominantly operates within a realm of "known unknowns" rather than being blindsided by "unknown unknowns," significantly reducing disruptions and delays.

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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