Below is a list of some of my change adventures in which I have positively impacted business and culture. These examples are snippets of how I have pushed for human centered design frameworks and mindsets to become common place in how my teams approach opportunities.
As product owner/manager for major strategic projects, I was facing development teams that were entrenched in the waterfall mentality. I had experience with agile before and knew that my projects were ripe for the agile mindset.
I approached the IT managers for each project and quickly laid out the pros and cons to pursing our projects in agile vs. waterfall. Since our projects required heavy influence and constant user feedback in order to be successful, it was a pretty easy sell. I also spoke with our developers who had not done a project in agile and found that they shared the excitement to take on a new challenge.
I researched and organized training for the teams to go through an agile bootcamp and attended two in order to formally educate and immerse myself in the product owner role.
One of the key takeaways from the bootcamp was that if your teams are able to be co-located, it makes things much easier. I began researching costs for building a “pod” internally and found that it would take 6-8 months before we could all sit together. So – I went outside the walls and found a shared work space in downtown Portsmouth (Alpha Loft), got some quotes, took photos, checked availability and made my pitch to senior leadership on the importance and the cost structure vs. an internal pod.
The proposal was accepted and the team moved in together to begin our journey in one of the company’s first off campus pod. This kickstarted a trend which saw the same IT department look external for new work spaces to place their agile pods into!
The experiment has been great thus far, our teams are gelling and brimming with creativity. Plus we’ll end up saving our company around $10k annually by locating a team off campus and not building an internal pod.
Human Centered Design
In the past 3 years I’ve learned as much as I can about HCD and Design Thinking. I realized that this mindset is how things should have always been! It’s become an intense passion of mine and something that I apply everyday in my projects.
I utilize the Strategyzer Value Proposition Design techniques to nail down a customer (or user) profile which dives deep into the pains gains and jobs to be done. This profile technique falls under the empathize and define phases of HCD/DT.
Ideation is my favorite phase because you get to take moonshots and think about feasibility later. I take influences from GV Sprints and an article from HBR about “brainswarming” or silent brainstorming to begin ideating. I tend to agree with these authors, that coming up with initial ideas independently helps to better unearth great/better ideas overall. The initial constraints from the empathize and define phases set up the play pen to unleash the fury of creativity!
Prototyping is becoming a new passion for me. It started with doing Microsoft Publisher/Powerpoint to create interactions or videos for examples and has grown to more sophisticated applications like Sketch and InVision. I am learning everyday and reading as much as I can to increase my knowledge on color interactions, typography and other visual psychological effects (General Assembly is helping me Skill Up!) The human condition and our interactions with each other through software are fascinating to me – they continually push me to explore more on these topics.
Testing is where everything comes together. I love proving myself wrong and uncovering biases that could lead to future failures. Testing should not be about proving you were right. Rather, testing should be about finding out how you can make things better. I love UX and functionality tests. As a former college athlete, testing solutions is my new form of competition. I prepare by trying to do all the right things leading up to the test and then put it all out on the line to see how it comes together. The important part of the cycle is for me to then learn from the experience to improve on the next go. I also found this great article on how to look at metrics with a design from Google.
Utilizing design thinking has helped me reshape my career and approach to opportunities. In the past, my role would have simply been defined as “project manager”. However, I like to change things 🙂 and turned my job into that of a Product Manager and Product Owner. I focus my efforts on achieving the business result through high adoption rates. This means I focus on Value and User Experience – not just time, scope and budget (all are important – just not my sole focus). I spend a lot of time immersing myself in the issue trying to find what the pains, gains and jobs to be done are. Then I follow HCD/DT techniques to help me prioritize and move forward with delivery.
Google Venture Design Sprints
I read the book, Spint! and was immediately enlightened! I bought each of our Customer Advocacy VPs a copy and put it on their desks. Most have read it and seem intrigued by the benefits. Since bring this framework to VPs and Managers, we have begun to practice variations of the GV Design sprint for our journey mapping and design opportunities.