Learning from Operations

Discussion: What Operations can Teach DesignOps
Louis Rosenfeld, Principal at Rosenfeld Media
Erin Hoffman-John, CEO at Sense of Wonder
Crystal Wilcox, Government Operations Director
Jeff Sussna, Principal at Ingineering.IT

From the Design Operations Summit website:
Our past three speakers will discuss and answer questions about operations practices from their respective industries. Facilitated by Lou Rosenfeld.

From a systems point of view, can we talk about design and art pedagogy, and what it is were tasking out students to be creative or design thinkers in light of this design – business – STEM that exists.  Clarifying … as leadership of creative leaders might be a better way to frame for this panel.

Crystal – Leadership training were things called “Leading from the Heart”, where she really got to understand herself and where she was coming from as a leader.  So she could develop her own leadership principles.  One of her core values is continual learning.  Not sure you can teach that, but it’s critical to have leaders who are lifelong learners.

Jess – If you post that the existence of the corporation depends on it’s ability to continually learn … if a company stop learning it dies.  His quixotic quest – like with DevOps – is a solution to a very traditional problem of IT silos.  But we can’t solve those problems with the same kinds of mindsets.  Etsy talks about post-mortems in one of their online documents.  Done well, you have a meeting about how to have it not happen again.  The Etsy document is not about blame, but a much bigger, open-ended.  It’s much more designerly – trying to discover things that might be better.  More and more IT is about empowering people and teams to discover and learn things.  How do we infuse design education for everyone?  We can’t layout out linear solutions the way we used to – we need to explore our way through them.  It requires a fundamentally different approach.

Erin says that the hardest thing to teach is the facilitation of safe conflict.  It is really difficult to convey that if you don’t have conflict, you also don’t have trust.  But absence of conflict is not harmony – it’s suppressed conflict.

Are Biomimcry, Joseph Campell relevant to UX design?

Erin – We use Campbell’s framework of the HEro’s Journey.  The concept of reversal is the most important.  UX is about removing friction.  Gaming has strategic friction – where do you apply friction to achieve insights.  If you want to bring about a transformation, we think a lot about that place of “scaffolding transformation potential”.  It is almost the inverse of usability – giving them what they need, not what they want.

What did you learn from the morning presentations on Design Operations?  There are some parallels between Design Ops – maybe compare and contrast.

Jeff – We get criticized for not being able to succinctly explain what DevOps is. Similarly, be careful about trying to reify design operations too quickly.  Organizations are looking more like organisms that are continually evolving.  You are at the beginning of a process of transformation.  Think about it as something you’re going through.  You will all end up at a little bit of a different place.  Spotify says “please don’t implement our model” – you shouldn’t mindlessly replicate it.  The process of figuring out how it plays out for you is part of what you are trying to do.

Crystal – Be flexible, think about what you need to do first.   As your organizations grow, you might need to create decision frameworks.

What are you learning from us about Design Operations?

Erin – Still wrapping her head around differences in scale.  How do we honor the history of where we came from, while still looking to the future?  In video games, there is fetishistic obsession.  In contrast with tech and modern design, that gives us a grounding and common language to relate to each other.

How you as leaders motivating designers – especially in an environment that is so different from Pinterest?

Crystal – They had an all-employee meeting the year before, and they got a write-up on all the things they were not allowed to do.  They did things like what Pinterest shared earlier!  It it tough to create an environment for design to flourish.  She is trying to create some space where they are checking the right boxes, so if we are getting a little too creative, that they will have a little wiggle room to do that.

Lou – Yes, finding a way to create cover, but maintaining trust at the same time.

Jeff – In IT it’s reduction of misery.  We never get anything done because we are being consumed by unplanned work.  He coaches DevOps to traditional IT organizations – it can make their daily lives better.

Love the vision for DevOps, and building on Erin’s ideas about evolution.  We have the capacity of vision and deconstructing them.  That is a key process for design.  How could you create and deconstruct wholes in DevOps?

Jeff – look at what the US military is doing.  There is a book called Team of Teams about how they responded to global terrorism.  How do you balance autonomy and alignment?  It’s not fully answered in DevOps.  We are still struggling with scaling Agile.

How do we make pieces fit together into a coherent whole?  The emerging DevOps answer is empathy – we have to think about what we’re working on and its connection to something larger.  What is around us? What is beyond us?

What are some suggestions for documenting continuous learning?

Jeff – We think Agile means we can just push it out faster.  He could talk for many hours about cybernetics.

If you have the opportunity for more continuous feedback, you can learn more.  What is the meaning of the thing we did?  Did it work the way we wanted?  It’s not institutional knowledge, but rather sensing an adapting to our environment.

Started as a practitioner, now wants to help with strategy.  Now – as Kristin said earlier – he is trying to fix the organizational parts.  How to have a design organization integrate well?  How do you want to be worked with?

Crystal – Getting orders for a design is an outcome of not being well integrated.  When they work on fascinating problems, they are also trying to teach the agencies to fish.  We want the agencies to be more independent, to be able to do more on their own.  We do that through integrated teams – engineers, designers, strategists.  We send them into to an agency together to work on a program, with amazing results.  One group thought they needed app, but what they really needed was a communication network for a given community.  And it was cheaper than building an app.

Jeff – After you read Designing Design Organizations, you should read How Committees Invent by Melvin Conway.  It explains how systems and organizations mirror each other.

Erin – Teaching people to fish is key – it’s certainly true of design gamers.  The greatest sin is the silo.  All maladaptive conflict comes from insecurity.  So be confident, be secure, and give away what you do – and then we’ll solve the problem together.

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