Weeknotes #35

— 20 minute read

This week was like a flash! I write short notes in the weekdays for things I want to share on my Saturday weeknotes. This week I was so busy that I haven’t captured one single note! But it was an exciting one, and I have great things to share about work and life.

My selected article for this week is Entering groups, by Esther Derby. She wrote a book about effective change. In the article, she talks about first impressions and how to offer help in the right way.

Good things permalink

Inclusive design in the stage permalink

The theme for our chapter meeting this week was inclusive design. Taylar delivered a great talk about sign language and inclusive design. Marvellous Bruce Lawson talked about accessibility and the web.

To finish the week on a high, Fred Warburton delivered a great speech in our tech All Hands. He finally shared his personal story about his lived experience of disability. Four hundred people went crazy. I had the privilege of watching the presentation twice: he asked for my feedback before the event. In our session, I was emotional. Fred is becoming a great speaker. I am sure his talk is a good candidate for any good conference next year.

The joy of design reviews permalink

We worked redesigning our design review process. I have learned so much. It was a joy to see Michael Owen, Jack Roles, Paul Tran and Danny Harrop working together. Open minds and willingness to make things better. We also onboarded two of our talented designers in the spike: Sarah Benson and Adrian Lopez. I am so excited about this work. It was also an excellent opportunity for the team to work with Amy Keeling.

The invisible work permalink

I’ve met Kevin Telfer this week to discuss ways of supporting people to write about their work. I am a big fan of the working out loud concept. I was so privileged to have Amy Hupe as my writing coach for ten weeks this year. I am excited that Kevin is leading this initiative to support XD’s in sharing their work and life experiences in the open. Recently, James Price wrote an incredible article about product design interviews and dyslexia. This is inspiring our team to improve our hiring practices. Writing operates magic. It feels like sending good intentions to the future.

Updating my Learning Canvas permalink

Taylar, the new member of our a11y team, is so smart. We had a conversation about metacognition and learning. I presented my learning canvas; we talked about self-learning and productivity.

Learned things permalink

Minimal Valuable Process Improvement (MVPi) and Design Operations permalink

Many in the design industry hate the term MVP. Because it’s symbolic, it represents the frustration of designers working in dysfunctional agile teams. I will make this post an opportunity to create a new unrelated acronym: MVPi. I wouldn’t say I like acronyms, but I can’t miss this joke.

Real agile teams (I am talking here about the mindset, not methodologies) love to fail and learn. This definition of the agile mindset can help:

An agile mindset is an individual’s willingness to deal with failure by learning from it and changing how things are done so as not to repeat the failure.

The term we use in the industry is Ways of Working. There is so much opportunity when we share learnings across contexts (squads, disciplines) in an agile organisation. But there is also change fatigue. I am learning (and failed a lot) on this as I am working with several squads in 3-5 super tribes for more than one year. To transfer learnings across teams, you have to understand and respect context. Or deal with the pushback!

Double down on clarity. Before making changes, make it clear why you are proposing that change and write it down! The way you suggest a change is essential as the change itself. As my friend Amy Hupe (again) repeated like a pirate parrot in my head over and over for months:

Do the hard work to make things simple

There is no rule book, but I have a secret: Go meta! Apply service design thinking and content design in your process change. It takes more time, but you can create something that can scale.

  1. Start with basics. Do your research. You can’t be lazy on investigating root causes.
  2. Map the as-is journey, pain points, emotions, opportunities. Don’t ignore the details. If you are mapping together, you are already winning. Async works for this - we use Miro in our teams.
  3. Write about the change you want to make. You don’t need to use a Standard Operating Procedure format. But you do need a template. Be specific. (Async, again)
  4. Give people some time to talk and ask questions before starting the experiment. Be mindful they are already doing the work and reflection takes time. Async works as well, but create time for people to express how they feel—using those 5 minutes after the stand-up is a solution.
  5. Create the feedback loop and the time for people to reflect on the change before you start. You can use a retro for this, but it will railroad your retro.
  6. Run the experiment. Communicate. Listen. Share back.
  7. Now go back and edit the thing you created in step 3. Make it more clear.
  8. Write about it. Celebrate the learnings, not the wins.

Some steps fit an asynchronous model. It’s a great way to avoid meetings and empower people to own the change. But you have to work hard and write it down. And be mindful people have different preferences to assimilate information. Over-communicate.

Agilists hate to be prescribed any process or solution. The crux of the question is that there is no Ways of Ways. What you are changing is the team, not the software, service or process. Transferring learning from one group to another is tricky.

This might be the reason *real* agile doesn’t scale well in enterprise settings: communication, coordination costs and the distance from customers increases. Companies don’t invest enough time and money in collaboration. It’s a tricky subject: internal tools, knowledge sharing, ways of working, culture. Making things connect and have all teams performing is a chaotic activity.

When there is a gap in this, you immediately observe a drop in the design quality. From a design perspective, even if you have an excellent design system, the consistency falls apart. Because user experience it’s a sum of all parts. Improving the user experience in an agile enterprise setting takes time. You have to learn effective ways of creating and managing change. Design Operations is a useful framework. But there is no silver bullet.

One day I will write a book or article about the tension between Design Operations and agile. There will be a chapter named Minimal Valuable Process Improvement. And that is my SAFe joke.

Anosmia and Phantosmia permalink

This week we have been struggling with long covid symptoms. Leili is suffering from Phantosmia. She is having constant olfactory hallucinations, and it’s going crazy. I can’t smell anything: I have Anosmia. So we have this situation when she says is smelling something like the house is burning and I can’t smell anything.

I’ve spent hours this week learning about this. I even created a slack group at work. In my search, I’ve found Abscent, a charity that helps people with smell disorders. They have the initiative to help patients and improve scientific research about this matter. If you have similar symptoms, become a member, it’s free.

Things that bring me joy permalink

Good old habits permalink

Now that we are almost recovered, Leili invited me to get back to our morning routine. Ours is very basic: waking up earlier, green juice, one hour of writing and a relaxed breakfast. The attempt this week was good. Seeing her focused and excited about small positive changes made me happy.

Writing together permalink

I’ve joined this week a new group: London Writers Salon. They meet every morning to write for one hour. A powerful and simple idea. It helped me a lot to start the day with a bang. Seeing about a hundred people writing in silence in a zoom room was shocking.

Healthcheck permalink

Other than the Anosmia, health is ok. I am working too much, and there is a bit of anxiety, but next week I have one day off.

Weight: 97 kg Blood pressure: normal Food: Some healthy food, three times we ordering deliveroo. Drinks: None Smoking: 5 weeks without smoking. This week I almost relapsed.

The way you ask for criticism and react when you get it goes a long way toward building trust—or destroying it. Kim Scott