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Mapping Design Operations

Today, companies in every industry seek to better their design capabilities: from products to services to experiences. Fueling the growing design function in large organizations is a new discipline called Design Ops, charged with scaling design and design thinking up, down, and across the organization.

Does your organization have a Design Ops function? If not, let’s design it!

Object of Play
Build shared understanding of how Design Ops operates within the larger organizational context. If a current Design Ops function exists, to visually map it. If it does not yet exist, to design it.

Number of Players
1-6 (depending on the objective).

As an individual, use the Design Ops canvas to quickly sketch out and think through a Design Ops organizational model or an interesting model portrayed in the press.

To map an organization’s existing and/or future model you should work in groups. Include partner organizations (e.g. project management) and stakeholders (e.g. clients). The more diverse the group of players, the more accurate the picture of the Design Ops function will be.

Duration of Play
Anywhere between 15 minutes for individual play (napkin sketch of a Design Ops model), half a day (to map an organization’s current Design Ops model), and up to two days (to develop a future Design Ops model, including vision, mission and metrics).

Material Required
Mapping works best when players work on a poster on the wall. To run a good session you will need:

  • A very large print of a Business Canvas Poster. Ideally A0 format (1000mm × 1414mm or 39.4in × 55.7in)
    • Alternatively, recreate the canvas on a large whiteboard.
  • Tons of sticky notes (i.e. post-it® notes) of different colors
  • Flip chart markers
  • Camera to capture results
  • The facilitator of the game might want to read an outline of the Design Operations Canvas

How to Play
There are several games and variations you can play with the Design Ops Canvas Poster. Here we describe the most basic game, which is the mapping of an organization’s existing Design Ops org (steps 1-3), it’s assessment (step 4), and the formulation of improved or potential new org designs (step 5). The game can easily be adapted to the objectives of the players.

  1. Start with the Stakeholders in the Who are we? circle. Use different color sticky notes on the Canvas Poster for each type of stakeholder (e.g. external vendors, internal support functions, clients). Complete this section.
  2. Subsequently, move to the What do we do? section and map out the value propositions your organization offers each stakeholder. Players should use the same color sticky notes for value propositions and stakeholder segments that go together. If a value proposition targets two very different stakeholder segments, the sticky note colors of both segments should be used.
  3. Map out all the remaining building blocks of your organization’s Design Ops model with sticky notes. Try to use the colors of the related stakeholder segment. Recommendation: once you complete the Stakeholders section, work around the canvas clockwise, beginning with the upper left section; leave the What Constrains Us? section last.
  4. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your Design Ops model by putting up green (strength) and red (weakness) sticky notes alongside the strong and weak elements of the mapped model. Alternatively, sticky notes marked with a “+” and “-” can be used rather than colors.
  5. Try to improve the existing model or generate totally new models. You can use one or several additional Design Ops Model Posters to map out improved org models or new alternatives.

Strategy
This powerful game opens up channels of dialogue about a new, lesser-known but vitally important design function. Use this game as an opportunity to not only create a thoughtfully designed and productive organization, but to introduce and educate the rest of the company about what design can do and how to plug in. Players not familiar with design may stay silent at first, but their participation will increase understanding and alignment, benefits with payoff into the future. Keep them engaged. Beyond including outside stakeholders in the game, use a completed Design Ops canvas as a conversation starter in evangelizing Design’s value to your company.

Variation

  • map out the Design Ops org of industry competitors or an aspirational company

Complementary Games

  • The Empathy Map will help you to more deeply understand your stakeholders; play this game before Mapping your Design Ops org.
  • The Business Model Canvas will provide a more technical (managerial?) understanding of how your Design Ops org functions; complete the Business Model canvas after mapping your Design Ops org. In the event you are looking to improve upon your current state, the Business Model Canvas will prove especially useful.
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Status Center

What if Status Meetings were like Sports News?

Object of Play
Sitting through status meetings is boring, right? Well, then why do many of us go home and watch status reports for an hour or more every night?We watch news shows, ‘fake’ news shows, Entertainment Tonight, TMZ, ESPN’s SportsCenter, and many more. Something about those status reports must be working better than the ones we sleep through at work.StatusCenter is a ‘macro’ game structure that aims to apply the ‘rules’ of the TV status report game to the business status report game. The StatusCenter macro-game is populated with stand-alone games that can be linked throughout the meeting, following Gamestorming’s ‘opening, exploring, closing’ model.

Number of Players
4 to 40

Duration of Play
30 to 60 minutes for a weekly meeting; up to 4 hours for a quarterly or annual review

How to Play
Like TV, StatusCenter will link short game segments, in a manner that is interesting and time-efficient. While the segments are modeled after sports, news, or other television formats, they are equally effective for people who aren’t familiar with those metaphors.

Opening Games

  1. Question Balloons: Simulating the controlled question-asking mechanisms of status shows like Larry King’s ‘email questions’, this game lets attendees literally float a question. As questions are answered, balloons are popped, and any questions still remaining at the end of the meeting are visible at a glance.
  2. Top Scores: Simulating the ‘Headlines’ or ‘Scoreboard’, this game delivers business metrics quickly and succinctly, acting as a teaser for the rest of the meeting.

Exploring Games

  1. 60-Second Update: Mimicking a ‘Highlights’ segment, this game delivers short updates by each member, aligning everyone. More questions can be ‘floated’ here.
  2. Project Jeopardy: Allows one or two in-depth updates on key subjects, while creating audience involvement for those who may already know the answers. Rotating the ‘host’ from meeting to meeting gives everyone a chance to say a little more about their own projects or progress.
  3. Crossfire: This segment provides drama, while giving a ‘safe’ environment for those that like to argue. Meeting attendees select a topic of interest during the previous week, and two people prepare to discuss it from two different viewpoints. This segment is a great way to explore potentially controversial ideas, learn about new products or technologies, or assess the competition’s latest move.
  4. In-depth Analysis <link here>: This longer segment provides space for an investigative report, formal presentation, or guest commentary. Consider inviting speakers who are of interest to the group but don’t typically come to the meetings.
  5. Trade Rumors: What are the hot rumors? Clearly delineated from the facts that are delivered in the status updates, these rumors generate interest and energy. Again, keep it short – 15 seconds each. Remember that a juicy rumor could become next weeks’ Crossfire or In-depth Analysis topic.

Closing Games

  1. Coming Attractions: What hot projects or decisions are coming up in the next week? What meetings should I attend? Give each participant 15 – 30 seconds to provide these ‘teasers’ that are quick and to the point.
  2. Question Balloons <link here>: Close out any questions that have not been addressed during the meeting.
  3. Cliffhanger: Use a suggestion box to choose the Crossfire and In-depth Analysis topics and participants for the next (or future) meeting. This builds drama and anticipation for the next meeting.

Strategy

  1. We cannot recommend strongly enough that most status information should be pushed outside of the StatusCenter game. Dashboards, email updates, and the like should be used to distribute information that does not need to be reiterated with a captive audience.
  2. Alternate short ‘highlight’ games with longer ‘analysis’ games to satisfy audience members who want depth, while keeping the pace engaging.
  3. Stick to status subjects. Decisions, brainstorming, and other topics – no matter how legitimate – should taken off-line. Even Crossfire, which can be used to present two different opinions, should be seen as a way of exploring ideas, not as a way to come to a decision.
  4. Add, delete, or replace these games based on time and need.
  5. There are many proponents of standing status meetings (often called ‘huddles’). Try this method.
  6. Try ‘co-hosts,’ like many news shows.

Key Points
StatusCenter will be most successful if roles are clear and attendees have prepared in advance. Consider creating a template for 60-Second Update and Project Jeopardy to help attendees understand what kind of information to include. By moving basic status information to pre-meeting communications and then breaking the meeting itself into fast-paced chunks, you can transform a meeting that people tend to tune out of into one they will definitely want to watch.

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Question Balloons

Object of Play
Planning to accept and respond to questions is one of the most difficult parts of running a meeting, a workshop, or a presentation. Will there be enough time for Q&A? Is the audience willing to ask questions? How many questions will they ask? Do I take questions at the end or throughout? How do I know if questions were answered in a useful way?

To address this challenge, the Question Balloons game allows attendees to ‘float’ their questions throughout a meeting or presentation; providing a visual status that helps manage group energy.

Number of Players
4 to 40

Duration of Play
Any length

How to Play

  1. Start by providing a marker and one or two helium-filled balloons to each attendee. The balloons must have strings that will allow the attendees to float the balloons and then retrieve them (from the ceiling, if necessary) when needed.
  2. Ask each attendee to write their questions about the scheduled topic on a balloon and then float the balloon. Only write one question per balloon. It’s okay to save balloons for later. Question Balloons can be floated at any time during the presentation or meeting.
  3. During any free time (pre-meeting, breaks, or lunch), the speaker or leader should walk around and read the Question Balloons, getting a feel for the questions that will arise.
  4. Inform all attendees that they should pop their Question Balloons – loudly – whenever one of their questions is answered sufficiently. This answer might come from meeting materials, slides, a speaker, or a casual conversation. It doesn’t matter. At the end of the session, any remaining Question Balloons will be addressed.
  5. When a question is answered, the corresponding balloon will pop. Some people will jump. That’s okay. The leader/facilitator should acknowledge that we have answered a question and lead applause. Some participants will float new Question Balloons throughout the session. That’s good.
  6. When the content or topic is completed, there will usually be two types of Question Balloons remaining. The first type is informational (When is the product being released? Who wants to share a ride home? How much is that service?). Answer these first. If there is no answer available, assign the question to the responsible party. The second type of question you’ll see is opinion (What is the best approach? How should I handle my customer?). These should be posed to the room. Instruct the person who floated the question to pop their balloon when they received information, from anyone, that will help them move forward.

Strategy
Question Balloons are very effective for meetings loaded with content, like reviews and status meetings. For organizations that might be too conservative for balloon popping, sticky notes on a wall will also work. We recommend using balloons for special events, not for a weekly status meeting.

Key Points
The Question Balloons game gives power to meeting attendees, control to the facilitator, and feedback to both. It leverages visual and kinesthetic information through balloon floating and popping. It uses the mechanism of elimination to score how many questions get answered. Attendees can see that their questions will be answered. Play Question Balloons when you want to better manage group energy.

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Communicate This & Stick it here

Stickit

Communicate This & Stick it here

Complex simulation illustrating communication by people listening and sharing information in a manner that other people can understand the message being received as well as sent.

Creates environment to transfer, strengthen and re-work systems of communication with intra as well as inter departmental systems.

Can also be used to highlight different idioms and references that are used internally, this can be confusing to other departments and cultures (for global organizations and teams).

Materials:

  • Laminated Puzzle (supplied below)
  • Blank Puzzle Board (supplied below)
  • 18 envelopes – 1 for each puzzle piece
  • Countdown Timer
  • Stop Watch

Group Size:

  • For this variation 18 people is ideal
  • For smaller groups you can supply people with more than one puzzle piece or create a puzzle and puzzle grid with less pieces
  • For larger groups you can ask people to break into 18 teams i.e. partner, triad. Or create a puzzle and puzzle grid with more pieces

Objective:

The objective is for the group to assemble themselves according to the directives and place the Communicate This puzzle pieces into their proper order.

Secondary objective is for the group to explore a complex process that requires mapping, planning, strategy, and situational leadership of each team member.

Concluding in the group exploring and developing improved use of communication systems, process mapping and listening plus speaking for understanding.

Preparation:

Prior to beginning this activity with 18 people (see group size above for different group sizes) laminate and cut out each of the square Communicate This puzzle pieces. Place each piece into its own separate envelope, you will need and use 18 envelopes.

The Communicate This grid should be on a table somewhere on the opposite side of the room of where you will have the group gather.

Split about ¼ of the room and place on a table the Communicate This blank grid. In the other ¾ of the room will be the working area for the team. It helps to lay a rope or use masking tape to mark the “Grid Area” and “Planning Area”

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Have the guidelines written on flip chart paper

Instructions and Facilitator Script:

Hand out the puzzle pieces in a random order to the people; ask them NOT to open the envelopes until the activity begins.

Below is how I generally explain the initiative

“Each of you contain within your envelope specific pieces of information that is needed for your personal advancement and the teams overall success. Please keep the envelopes sealed until the countdown timer begins.

The objective of this simulation is to place each of the puzzle pieces in the correct order in less than 60 minutes, and then place the puzzle pieces into the Communicate This grid in under 30 seconds. Here are the guidelines;

  • One person per puzzle piece.
  • Only you can see, touch, and move your puzzle piece once the envelope in opened.
  • NO ONE besides the person assigned the puzzle piece can see, touch and move that puzzle piece at any time in the “Planning Area” and the “Grid Area”.
  • Pieces may NOT be exchanged –You must keep your piece at all times.
  • Pieces will be assembled properly (letters, symbols, numbers are the right way up)
  • Symbols match so that any two adjacent piece edges match the same symbol
  • The color symbols mark the edges of the puzzle (sometimes I leave this guideline out)
  • All planning and systemizing will be completed in the Planning Area
  • The group will have 60 minutes to plan, prepare, and develop a process for placing the Communicate This puzzle into the grid
  • Once 1 person steps into the “Grid Area” the 30 seconds for placing all the pieces properly in the grid starts.
  • For any violation of the guidelines the ethics board requires a penalty of 2 minutes removed from the planning time. You can choose to be a strict or forgiving of the rules as you choose. Observe how the teams and people choose to interpret the rules and use these observations for the processing and reflection.

Any questions? Your time starts NOW.”

Connections and Concepts:

Communicate this is a challenging activity. Expect yelling, confusion, and some chaos in the beginning.

For the team to complete the task a shared use of language for the symbols will be either formally or informally created. Some of the names of the symbols are not commonly known, for example ampersand. Additionally global team members may not know and have the same symbol and description; this creates a great discussion for the processing. This may / will create confusion and frustration for people who are working to solve the puzzle.

Pay attention to the group dynamics; are they all working together? Are they splitting into smaller teams? Are the smaller teams sharing information with the larger group? Who is keeping track of the time?

Once the team is all in place and they are ready to transfer the pieces to the grid, did they remember that once the 1st person crosses the line the 30 seconds for completion starts. Teams need to also plan for how they are going to move everybody in a sequence from the Planning Zone to the Grid Zone and place each piece correctly in the Puzzle Grid.

As you can see this is a multi process, situational leadership simulation.

Processing & Reflection:

Here are some ideas;

Show or list Great Team Dynamics Include;

Ask the people to break into groups of 4 to discuss and find areas in the initiative that match the Great Team Dynamics.

Following about 10-15 minutes of small group discussion ask the groups to share what they discussed.

Ask the group to split into 2 groups of 6 and to come up with an example from their work lives that is similar to Communicate This.

Allow each group to share the example, and then ask each group to create a solution based idea that can change and improve the example either team explained.

Possible questions for the group;

  • What was your initial reaction to the challenge?
  • On a scale of 0-5 0 being horrible and 5 being excellent where would you place the teams planning?
  • For the planning to be 1 to 2 numbers higher what would be different? How would you know? What would you notice in other people? What would they notice in you?
  • Did any leaders emerge?
  • How where disagreement dealt with?
  • In what ways is this like work, home, community, etc..?
  • How?
  • What can we learn from this?
  • How can these ideas be brought to the office, home, community, classroom?

Reference:

First saw a version when working at a Corporate Conference Center in Buffalo, NY. While co-facilitating a Global Corporate Team with Dave Davenport of DxM

Communicate This Puzzle;

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Communicate This Puzzle Grid;

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Michael Cardus is the founder of Create-Learning an experiential based consulting, facilitation, training and coaching organization. Leading to successful results in retention of staff talent, increased satisfaction with work, increased collaboration and information sharing within and between departments, increased accountability of success and failures, increased knowledge transfer, increased trust as well as speed of project completion and decision making of Leaders, Teams and Organizations.