February 1st marked my first three months as the Head of Experience Design at Vorwerk International. I am thrilled and honoured to have been allowed to lead this fantastic team. At the same time, there were many challenges, successes, and lessons learned along the journey.
With the Head of Experience Design at Vorwerk International role, I had to consider how my impact would benefit the team and the organisation. At first, I experienced anxiety because I felt overwhelmed by the list of tasks on my desk. I learned how “prioritise and execute” is a great strategy to mitigate my anxiety. Take one problem at a time and start with the most important one. I learned that sharing this approach with managers enabled me to shortlist my first hundred days’ goals.
- Re-shape my relationship with my teammates
- Invest in building a better relationship with the stakeholders
- Focus on streamlining the product design process with velocity and efficiency
My relationship with my teammates
My first problem was rethinking how to create the best conditions for the team to feel secure to improve the ideation and execution phases. The most challenging part of this task is delegating design decisions to teammates. This process is arduous, not because I don’t trust my teammates’ skills. It’s more about me learning how to balance the delegation with the individual contribution part. As Head of Experience Design, I cared for designers in my past experiences. This time, though, the scenario is different because I was part of the team, and from November 1st, I moved into another role.
I learned that championing a feedback culture based on “providing the solution and not only pointing out the problem” turns opinions into tangible feedback. This outcome triggers an exceptional solution fine-tuning process.
I learned that the secret ingredient of this process is the translation of the business expectations into an actionable list that doesn’t leave any room for interpretation. Only with this extreme level of clarity can team members unleash their problem-solving mindset that pushes the boundaries of creative solutions.
In these three months, I learned how vital it is to have the team’s goals written down. We all rely on a simple Confluence page. Key projects and tasks are listed quarterly, and the team knows what we have committed to. Every discussion and decision needs to fit the plan we decide to accomplish.
This bridges to the second task I focused on during these first three months as Head of Experience Design at Vorwerk International:
Building a better relationship with the stakeholders
First and foremost, I looked for a lean way to ensure everyone was on the same page regarding checking projects’ state of the art, priority, and capacity. I learned how crucial it is to fortify the open line of communication with stakeholders. I found it priceless to reduce the maximum communication channels. Dedicated Teams channels and related Confluence do the trick to keep them updated on the project’s progress. With the team, we learned how crucial it is to open this line of communication to everyone involved in the project.
Straightforward communication is beneficial to transparency. To have as much transparency as possible, the team invests time organising its work to let managers know what we are currently doing and how this fits the product roadmap. Here, I also learned to reduce the touchpoints to the max, and we heavily rely on the Jira project dashboard to share the project’s health.
Management must explain the expected ROIs accurately, and the team must support them in planning and executing the best strategy based on the Organization’s capacity.
I learned how solid and transparent communication with the stakeholders is an excellent combo for defining impactful team mandates.
Streamlining the product design process with velocity and efficiency
I learned how crucial it is for humans to understand when and why to use a tool, based on which processes and with what expectations. I found it very helpful to develop an easy-to-understand collaboration model. I started to summarise visually (I decided to design a Miro board) how the experience design team engages with our clients, operates with the other teams and delivers different projects. It is a great way to bring everyone on the same page and facilitate the overall product design process.
The collaboration model we designed focuses on the following:
Meetings and rituals
The Experience Design Team is a small team of very talented people. We need to be very careful about how we invest our time. Hence, we decided to attend meetings only if it is 100% clear what our contribution will be. This simple behaviour cleaned up our calendars and bought us precious time to focus on the creative flows. At the same time, we re-designed our team rituals. For instance, we decided that all rituals are not mandatory but essential for Team chemistry. Together, we agreed on small habits to improve this concept—for example, the stand-ups. If a team member can’t attend, she/he must send a message to the Teams channel about her/his task updates. The outcome is a more transparent way to collaborate and focus on the tasks.
Roles and responsibilities
The service design blueprint map clarified a lot in terms of roles and responsibilities. Our client understood how to interact with the team and what each one’s role is depending on the project type or the task state. Of course, this design output is like when you build a beautiful sand castle, and a toddler runs into it (I fell in love with this metaphor here). On paper, everything looks in the right place and is ready to boost efficiency and velocity. Still, humans are hackers (or life-long toddlers), and they always try to find shortcuts and/or disrupt the process for the sake of disruption. These challenges require a constant effort to bring everyone to stick to the process before breaking it and to constantly keep an eye on it to spot the improvements that can increase its adoption. A lot of room for improvement here!
Service delivery process
The company’s setup influences how the experience design team contributes to the strategy. Hence, it’s not a typo when I wrote “service” and not “design” because our mandate demands this. To properly deliver a high-quality service, we as a team must focus and invest in tools and processes that are sustainable and tuned to the tech landscape we work in. We must support and help our stakeholders envision and maintain the Vorwerk sales digital touchpoints as premium experiences. The experience design team accomplish this mission by providing a service that is a combination of design outputs, consultancy and mentorship toward the human-centred design approach.
My key learning so far is that investing in humans is the most remunerative strategy. I need to improve how to ensure the big picture is clear and, at the same time, open the floor for questioning and challenging the strategy. A robust approach to funnel these two sources of info is the most productive way to pull in the same direction.
It’s evidence that as the understanding of the product design process is streamlined, the results of its delivery process are faster and more efficient.
The outcome is that teams will react faster, more effectively and with less resistance to changes in plans or unexpected problems. This is essential for long-term strategic success.
Yes, It may seem like saying that water flows downhill, but my crucial learning of these first three months as Head of Experience Design at Vorwerk International is not so obvious.