Build alignment at scale using Design Thinking facilitation
A small step to manage the discussion and misalignment at scale
In the past 2 months, I’ve been experimenting on how to break silos and build alignment in the team using Design Thinking that we adapted to our context and condition. I hope by sharing this, it can inspire some of you in the same situation as me. So, here it goes:
“Ugh…”, a Design Manager sigh. I can’t help but ask, “What’s up?”
She turns to me, “Everything is a mess. I spent 2 hours of meetings and basically, my team is back to square one because everyone has their own opinions.” Phew, what a stressful situation!
From a hunch to an observation
Immediately I thought “this is not my first time hearing this.” Feeling uneasy about it, I start to ask a few designers and PMs if I can jump into one of their meetings. And so I did, my goal is to build a preliminary knowledge on how the team discusses their project. I observe 3 points during the meeting:
- Beginning: Is everyone understand what this meeting is about?
- During: Is everyone discuss relevant things around the goal?
- End: Is everyone understand what the next step? Do they make a decision and align on it?
2 hours of meeting and the team walked out of the room without any kind of alignment
Findings: Meeting can be a waste of time
And I come to the conclusion that some teams, not all, are sometimes wasting their time to talk about the project in a very unstructured way. Worst case, I joined a meeting where they talk about their project for 2 hours and by the end of that meeting, everybody walks out without any kind of alignment. Basically, they are still in the same state before and after the meeting. Here is a small sneak peek.
“how might we enable product teams to have a better alignment?”
Design thinking activity to manage the discussion effectively
So, I started with the question of, “How might we improve this team discussion?” For a big team like 10–20 people, how can we improve them? In my experience, doing the design thinking activity has been, by far, the most effective way to work at scale. So, I jump-start using that as a part of my experiment
We need more people to be practitioners!
First, we were discussing, “Where should we start?” When thinking of the starting point, we started small from the design team to be a facilitator. Our hypothesis is if the product team can at least better aligned on the problem and outcome, we will see increases in better decision making that leads to better outcomes.
The mini Bootcamp experience
Therefore, we decided that bootcamp is probably the best way to introduce the methods since it is a new concept for most of our designers.
It is an experimental place for our crafters to experience the mindset and practices of Design Thinking. We put them in groups and starts with a brief challenge like “design a better hospital experience.” And throughout the bootcamp, they will experiment on how to turn this abstract brief into alignment around the problem and outcome. It can be based on their hypothesis or based on their research, both are valuable depends on the condition and nature of their project. We also put emphasize that the methods are not step-by-step things, we want it to be scalable and flexible enough instead.
Workshops instead of meetings
Instead of sitting down and talk without any direction. We decided to utilize the workshop format. People can start to diverge different opinions and converge and make a decision together quickly.
The feedback and the outcome
More practitioners on the ground
We started to see more team has been experimenting with this approach, they take 1–2 hours to actually do the workshop together and align. So far, each team who tried this started to pick up a certain level of trust toward the practice.
Quantifying the impact
We did a survey to evaluate the bootcamp efficiency and effectiveness:
Here are a few words from the practitioners who tried the practice in their team
We also talked to a few Designers and Researchers who tried or wanted to try this method to collaborate with their team and ask what did they think about it so far:
The execution was shining, shimmering, splendid even done more than my expectation. — Product Manager
We did assumption and questions, my team now understand what are the most important problems or questions to be focused on.
My team did a 2 hour workshops, we were so nervous in the beginning. Turned out, it was very efficient. At the end of the workshop, we started to align on what metrics we want to improve and why.
We still haven’t had a chance to do it, but I told the team about this and they’re really excited.
Measuring our practice at scale
We’ve been planning to do a large scale questionnaire to measure our practice. How effective is that? What can we improve? This is our current state, will share an update as soon as we have them!
Putting it into a habit
What if everyone in the company starts to think and work collaboratively together? We started to have this ambitious mission where all teams can really use this practice into their day-to-day instead of a one-off project. I believe it will bring us to a better state.
On the side, there are challenges, like key-decision maker stakeholder doesn’t have time to join the workshop or the practitioners are not confident enough to facilitate the workshop. Which will be our next challenges.
If you’re interested in bringing this Design Thinking practice to your company, hit me up on LinkedIn or Twitter. I would love to have a discussion because we are all trying to win the battle with a different context and approach.
We’re hiring Senior Designer who wants to join in our journey to answer this overarching question, “How might we help our company produce better outcomes intentionally to win a market?”
Credit to Yoel, Radit, and Farah for the help