It’s been a pretty good week I must say—albeit the whole thing felt like one giant balancing act: balancing the needs for long term focus with short-term progress, planning with doing, and consensus-building with decision making.
Designing for change
Design systems are frequently preceded by other efforts to create unity, alignment and efficiency of process, which for one reason or another have failed, or at least have failed to succeed at the necessary scale. And that’s often down to a lack of resilience to change.
This might be a change in a team or individual’s capacity to sustain those efforts, a change in organisational priorities, or large scale platform or design language changes that render the original solution redundant.
A question which has become something of a theme for the past week or 2 in our team has been how we design systems that are not only built to cope with change, but are built to support it.
I feel really lucky to be working with a team who are experienced and empowered enough to go deep on this kind of question and I’m excited to see where it takes us.
Witness the fitness (functions)
As part of this, we’ve been considering the change-agnostic characteristics our design system should have (for example—accessibility and maintainability), and are planning to create some architectural fitness functions that would allow us to measure our success against these over time.
As I’m becoming more familiar with the concepts of evolutionary architecture and fitness functions I’m really starting to see their value (thanks Joe for your patient explanations!). But I’ll be honest, the terminology is pretty dense and it’s taken me a while to understand.
So a priority I have now is figuring out how we can use them to our advantage, whilst communicating them in a way that’s clear and digestible enough for time-poor stakeholders and a busy team. I’ll keep you posted!
Alignment, consensus and decision-making
The biggest challenge I’ve had this week is how to balance building team and stakeholder consensus with making decisions and giving direction. The balance is orders of magnitude harder to achieve as a new-ish person on the team, where I’m often lacking the context and history to “just make a call”.
One realisation I had was that there’s a big difference between seeking alignment of understanding and seeking consensus of opinion. While the former is very important for making decisions everyone can get behind, the latter is often unattainable or at least wildly inefficient to get to.
In addition, when you’re doing any kind of alignment-seeking exercise–whether that’s a workshop, a team discussion or sharing something for comment—it’s critical to communicate the intent behind it, how the next steps will be decided, and who by.
I tweeted a short thread of reflections on this which seemed to resonate with people, so perhaps I’ll write something more in depth soon.
I’m lumping this all together this week as there’s no clear theme, but a collection of things I want to note down.
- My screen time is down by 40% on week 2 of using the Forest app and my focus is noticeably better. It’s early days but WOW.
- I’ve also set screen time and app time limits to stop me from losing mindless hours to my phone. I’m sticking to them and it’s definitely making me more conscious about choosing to give it my attention.
- Perhaps related to points 1 and 2, I’m sleeping a lot better this week after a couple of weeks of intermittent insomnia.
- With our extension about to commence it’s now a race against the clock to find and order a kitchen in time. An observation I have is that it’s incredibly hard to analyse kitchen suppliers because every company seemingly offers a slightly different part of the package (planning, no planning, supply only, supply and fit, cabinets only, worktops and cabinets, and so on). All my efforts are going into generating 3 comparable quotes for us to compare. If I haven’t done it by next week, I give up.
- In an effort to create some more liveable space in our house for when said extension starts, we’ve been doing up our spare room (which has until now just been our Monica closet). Getting up at 6:30am to paint hasn’t been the best fun, but it’s amazing that my upstairs is suddenly a third bigger.
- We watched a fascinating and very stressful documentary on Thursday called The Last Breath which tells the story of a serious saturation diving accident. If I was less than keen on deep sea diving before this, I’m even less up for it now.