Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

Apr 2022

Disabling Conversations

While establishing this initiative, several conversations about its purpose and validity have come about. Often, these conversations start with a well-meaning, “are you able to do…?” And while often the answer is yes, there’s often a follow up question which may derail the intent. " As a result of (this item being done), how does your mission or vision prove its success? “ Unfortunately, for many new companies this can come across as disabling - in part because many people do not think far beyond the outputs they are asking for.

It’s important to qualify outcomes through understanding outputs. These outputs give an anchor to outcomes which may or may not be within the complete control of that team or organization. For example, one team or organization may be tasked with modernizing a specific process flow with outputs of improved efficiency, reduction in manual processes, etc. But, the outcomes of these activities may present themselves in further-caught measures such as employee retention, budget reductions/savings, or even a complete product revolution.

From this vantage point, all in the organization should understand many (if not most of the) outcomes of their activities beyond short-term goals. For example, if an organization wants to develop a retraining program, the outcome might sound like “ we just want to retain our people. “ It is not. This is output. The outcomes of retraining point to reallocations of work for enhanced economic value. It is often a reallocation of resources. And more often for leadership, retraining programs offers a soft landing when having to make hard decisions about who to keep/remove and where to pivot your product. So knowing the destination outcomes (profitability, usability, accessibility, etc.) are key for all, even if they may not be around to see or control future activities.

In the agile software methodology, there is a framing of tasks expressed in the format of:

As a result of (blank), the user will be able to (blank), so that they can (blank)

This framing keeps developers in mind of the entire scope of the product or feature, while focusing project managers and other stakeholders - who bend into reactive postures - at what’s immediately in front them (that is, the outputs). By keeping the longer-term vision in front of the ask, teams are less likely to be disabled by the question of “ as a result of doing this action, what’s going to happen?

With this focus, the team or organization grabs the attention of those who will be most impacted by implementing the product or feature. Producers can then earnestly carry that vision through the ups and downs of implementing those outputs. After implementing the feature or product, the outcome will be a clear lens as to the state of what was created. Here, the united voices of outputs and outcomes should elevate items from “a job to be done” to “here’s what we added to…”

If this voice is missing or not in harmony, the team and org are disabled. And many orgs don’t understand how many structures within and without are setup to cultivate disability, rather than re-engineer complexity into harmonious outcomes. An inability for non-leadership to clearly communicate outcomes, or measure contributing to them, is a disability found in those conversations. From there, Avancee looks to co-produce a better story for orgs, through coaching and consulting the shape of design which fits their specific outcomes.