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:
Good design conversations don't happen by accident.
They are started and sustained by capturing ideas in the moment and in a way that people can perceive.
Here are some ideas to help you lead the design conversation and to capture the learning and discovery that occurs in a collaborative meeting.
The big takeaways:
Agile design methods are powerfully simple techniques and leadership skills that make process design conversations flow with better collaboration and results.
When considering how to get from understanding a problem to designing and delivering a solution, the process is a predictable set of conversations that inform every step along the way from ideation to delivery.
Getting "from-concept-to-market" faster and more effectively yields competitive advantage as well as a solution more likely to resonate with the people who will ultimately buy or use it.
The concepts described herein apply whether your field of endeavor is operational excellence or product development.
As an organizational leader facilitating efforts to improve a process or product manager engaging your design team, you face predictable challenges when moving from some vague notion of a concept to actually designing the solution.
Here are some aspects that affect your future state design process:
A Solution-Oriented Conversational Framework
Early conversations focus on Why and What:
Latter conversations focus on How:
This approach lends itself to introducing the right conversation at the right time.
Conversation #1: Learning and Discovery
The scope of this conversation pertains to the understanding of the problem. This conversation is in scope of agile design methods.
Allow the voice of the people who are experiencing the problem(s) to inform this conversation. Listen and learn and document that learning to describe what each problem looks like and summarize them in problem statements in addition to statements of what is working well.
Document this learning and discovery conversation to inform the future state design conversation. Decide whether or not to proceed to a future state design conversation.
Conversation #2: Future State Design
The scope of this conversation pertains to the describing the ideal solution. This conversation is in scope of agile design methods.
Allow a dedicated and accountable group of contributors to inform a conversation around describing "what" the ideal solution looks without describing "how" the solution will be implemented. The descriptive language is free from any implementation jargon and focuses on delivering a clear description of the envisioned solution that may include process definitions, key solution deliverables, user experience criteria, risks, issues and opportunities.
Document this future state design conversation to inform the solution development conversation. Decide whether or not to continue to a solution development conversation.
Conversation #3: Solution Development
The scope of this conversation pertains to designing and developing the solution. This conversation is out of scope of agile design methods.
Allow a dedicated and accountable group of designers and architects to inform a conversation that describes "how" the ideal solution will be implemented. The descriptive language is rich in implementation detail. It may provide design alternatives that provide varying degrees of cost, risk, time, return on investment, etc. Decisions are made regarding design alternatives and leading to the actual development of a solution.
Document this solutions development to inform the solution delivery conversation. This conversation is out of scope of agile design methods.
Conversation #4: Solution Delivery
The scope of this conversation pertains to the delivery and support of the solution. This conversation is out of scope of agile design methods.
Allow a dedicated and accountable group to inform a conversation that oversees the delivery of the solution. This includes launching and promoting the solution as well as supporting it and providing user experience feedback to inform solution improvement efforts.
Agile Design Methods Describe What Not How
Agile design methods are those techniques and leadership skills that enable a future state design process characterized by high velocity, collaborative engagement and clarity of ideation. The resulting design is typically produced at a lower cost than traditional methods with a high degree of precision and improved stakeholder engagement and satisfaction.
The outputs of these conversations intentionally stop short of designing the implementation, They describe what the problems are and what the ideal solution qualities look like. This informs solutions architects and designers who are responsible for determining how to design the solution and the production/development teams that will deliver it.
Agile Design Methods: The What Perspective
Agile design methods, as quickly as practically possible, describe what is envisioned to be an ideal process or solution. They produce ideation deliverables that describe what the problems are and what the ideal solution qualities look like.
Exercising this type of "Design the What" discipline respects a separation of concerns between the market problem definition and the solution design definition. It informs the solution designers and architects who are responsible to "Design the How" of the solution under discussion.
At the time of this writing, the phrase "agile design methods" is not widely used or understood.
Agile Development Methods: The How Perspective
In contrast, agile development methods, as quickly as practically possible, define how to architect the solution and then proceed in building and delivering that solution. They produce deliverables that describe how the solution is to be implemented and they produce the actual solution.
At the time of this writing, the phrase "agile software development" is commonplace and is routinely associated with the word "agile".
Agile Design Methods: Subscribe for "How To"
The purpose of this primer has been to establish a foundation of a conversational framework that provides context as to where agile design methods fit in an overall solution development life cycle.
It sets the stage for further elaboration on topics related to agile design methods, collaborative creativity, product development and user experience.
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About Chuck Boudreau
(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.