I've heard it said, "To learn a new truth read an old book." Today I want to tell you about an essential conversational skill that I learned from an out-of-print book that I absorbed many years ago. What I learned positively impacts my design leadership work to this day.
The skill described in this book is a proven game-changer for me as I face the predictable challenges that occur in leading groups of people on the journey of product and solution design. It also measurably improves my ability to connect with people in my personal life.
Anyone can learn this skill. Mastering it is a lifelong and worthy pursuit. It provides a clearer understanding of issues and what to do about them. As a result, design conversations stay on track when issues occur. They get identified with greater understanding...and they get resolved.
If you want more confidence in how to handle issues when they occur, the life skill taught in an out-of-print book, and that I introduce in this video, will absolutely help you in your work and throughout your life.
The big takeaways
Good design conversations don't happen by accident. Facilitators who understand where people are coming from and where they are taking them have a markedly improved chance of getting great contributions and producing good conceptual design work.
Here are a few ideas to help facilitate learning and discovery design conversations with busy people.
The big takeaways:
Getting people to collaborate creatively in meetings is easier and more effective when it is done in a pleasurable, fun and trusting environment.
I know from experience how hard this can be.
So here are a few tips for leading a creative, collaborative meeting...
The big takeaways:
It passes so quickly that you’ll miss the opportunity if you’re not paying attention.
It’s that initial moment in the process when a person introduces themselves, shares who they are and what and their organization does.
That moment is rich with potential and it goes by quickly.
What To Listen For
Be prepared for the moment in advance by having your co-facilitor serve as a scribe, recording the person’s name on a single sheet of paper or in a note-taking tool like Evernote.
Then your scribe should listen for and record any of the following items that the person mentions:
Pain Points / Opportunities
“I’m Juanita and I work for the Finance Department. We use Dynamics to produce final paychecks when an employee departs and work with Legal and Procurement and Travel to ensure that any garnishments are taken out prior to their final paycheck and that any reimbursements for travel expenses are also included in their last paycheck. We also produce W-2s for departed employees at the end of the year. It’s a challenge and a very manual process to get all of this done thoroughly in a short timeframe, particularly when an employee departure occurs quickly.”
Pain Points / Opportunities
What To Do With This
Hold on to them. They will come in handy in the structured conversation that will unfold in the hours and days that lie ahead.
Nearly every one of these nouns are added to a Glossary. Many of them will eventually be placed around a Circle of Interaction (COIN) diagram that clearly summarizes the process, collaborators and deliverables on a single page.
Why This Matters
When it comes to facilitating and producing a clear understanding of a domain under discussion, if it hasn’t been written then it hasn’t been said. To say it another way, if it’s been said, but hasn’t been recorded, then it will not have the potential to be added to design documentation.
Being intentional to listen for and record things that a stakeholder mentions serves the stakeholder and the conversational process well. It keeps things agile. It serves the stakeholder well by respecting their contribution to the conversation. It serves the process by maintaining velocity, by creating a corporate memory of what was mentioned and by listening for those things which will be part of the future-state design documentation.
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(boo'-dro) - I help people design solutions collaboratively using agile design methods. I have 30+ years of experience in designing software solutions and business processes, leading cross-functional process improvement teams as a business analyst, and helping product managers define and position products using Pragmatic Marketing. I am passionate about user experience design, dog training, beating drums in musical ensembles and collaboratively creating solutions with people.