The Strategic Gamechanger: Quality during (Product) Design
Ever wished you could ace the art of product design using quality frameworks? Your wish is just about to come true!
We unravel the ADEPT framework, your magic wand for creating products that are not just satisfactory, but loved by users. We’ll also be discussing how to lead a team effectively, conduct hands-on meetings, and choose the right participants. These handy tips will enable you to develop top-notch products using cross-functional collaboration.
We’re also unveiling how quality itself can be a strategic gamechanger in product design. The ADEPT framework, applicable to any quality tool, will bring alignment, discovery, examination, prioritization, and teamwork to your concept development process.
With Quality during Design’s unique approach and with these resources at your fingertips, you’re ready to step up your product design game.
Use ADEPT to help you Design & Create Early Concepts
We’ve reviewed the ADEPT framework and how you could use that for early concept development with your team. The ADEPT framework can really be used for any quality tool that you think is going to fit the need of whatever it is that you’re trying to learn more about. It’s a way that you can apply quality during design with your cross-functional team in early concept development.
When we’re thinking about using quality in early concept development, we’re thinking of ways to use quality strategically. ASQ studies how quality is implemented in organizations, and they report that only about one quarter to one third of our organizations view quality as a strategic asset, as a way to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. The rest of us see quality as a compliance activity or for continuous improvement or as just a way to fix problems and mitigate risks.
We should shift our thinking to think that quality is a strategic asset to product development, and we can use it proactively to help us improve the development process. We can use quality engineering and reliability engineering to add more concept development and provide information to help us make decisions during the development so we can have those products that others love for less.
Previous Quality during Design podcast episodes in this series:
Visit the workshops page to link to the recorded webinar.
You’re listening to the Quality During Design podcast. This is Dianna. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been exploring more about the foundations and frameworks of Quality During Design. We started talking about the engineer’s role in early concept development and how we want to stay in the problem space a little longer. We then talked about cross-functional collaboration and then using some of those quality frameworks with our teams in concept development to be able to generate ideas and get design inputs. In this episode, I want to dive a little bit deeper into how we can use these frameworks specifically for concept development for product design. I’ll be sharing some practical tips on how to apply these frameworks to get those design inputs and priorities that you need for your project. Listen in, after this brief introduction.
Hello and welcome to Quality During Design, the place to use quality thinking to create products others love for less. Each week, we talk about ways to use quality during design and product development. I’m your host, Dianna Deeney. I’m a senior level quality professional and engineer with over 20 years of experience in manufacturing and design. I consult with businesses and coach individuals and how to apply quality during design to their processes. Listen in and then join us. Visit qualityduringdesign.com.
In the previous episode, I shared a little bit of a webinar that I had previously given and I’m going to do a bit of the same today. I gave a talk a couple of weeks ago to technical communicators for flowcharts. I teamed up with Scott Abel and The Content Wrangler and Hereto to give that webinar. As part of that webinar, I introduced a framework that could be used that explained how quality tools could be used in early concept development, what they could be used for. It also lists activities that you can do to ensure that you’re having the most effective cross collaboration teamwork in early concept development that you can get.
The system is called ADEPT and it’s short for Align, Discover, Examine, Prioritize and Teamwork. In this episode I go through each one of these steps and I share with you the best practices that I’ve found have worked best for me and what I’ve found other people say worked best for them also. So let’s get into it. Let’s talk more about how we can customize these quality frameworks for product design.
I don’t want to confuse this kind of teamwork with the typical brainstorming. Typical brainstorming is more free and it’s an expansion of ideas and creative prioritization and it raises a lot of questions the quality tool and quality during design framework and teamwork that I’m talking about. We do pre-work in preparation for a meeting. We discover with our team, but it’s very prompted. We have criteria against which we can prioritize. We do creativity, but with co-work and it drives actions.
I’m going to give you some tips for teamwork to do with a cross-functional team using quality tools. The first one is probably one of the most important. I’m probably going to say that about all of these.
Pre-work: you do, or plan the pre-work. You should have a goal in mind and you should have a quality tool or some other framework that you know you want to use with your cross-functional team. I have done it both ways. I have tried to be clever and call the team and say, “Hey, let’s create something together in a design!” and it has never worked for me. And if you do a lot of research online, they’ll also say that, yeah, this doesn’t really brainstorm me, doesn’t really work for me either – to really come up with something solid for me to design against. But the other way that I’ve done it is that I’ve done my research. If I’m responsible for a particular design of something, like you’re responsible for technical communication product, you know the kind of initial work that you need to do to start to figure out how you’re going to design something. So go ahead and do that. Do your research, try to figure out the users, create a high-level basic flow chart and get something going for your team to be able to look at and adapt. I’ve had a lot of success in doing things this way.
Lead: The other thing is that you want to lead. You lead the team meetings. You lead the facilitation. This is your product that you’re designing, so you need to be confident in your capabilities to lead. Now that doesn’t mean that you can’t ask for help. If you don’t feel like you’re good at facilitating or you want to share that responsibility with somebody, you can. You’re the leader. You can decide that I want help with facilitating this meeting and find somebody to help you do that. Another thing that some people find useful is a scribe or somebody that can help take meeting minutes or notes during the meeting. If you feel like you need that help so that you could focus on leading your team through an analysis, then go ahead and enlist somebody to be a scribe.
Keep it hands on: I have sat through meetings and I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve done meetings where we’re trying to fill in an Excel table with information during the meeting as we’re trying to figure out things, or we open up a Visio flow chart or some other online flow chart creation. We’re trying to create a flow chart in the software as we go. Just don’t do it. It just gums up everything because you’re trying to make something pretty while you’re working and it just doesn’t work. It slows down the team momentum, it slows down the process, the whole reason why you’re getting your team together in the first place. So keep it hands on and don’t worry about it being pretty during the meeting. You can clean it up later. And by hands on I mean use a whiteboard, use flip charts virtual or real. Use Post-it notes virtual or real. Here I’m showing a whiteboard where I use virtual flow, virtual Post-it notes for flow chart. I just used red for the start and end, yellow for the process steps and then green for the decision points. You can do it simply like that.
Invite the right people: There’s a spectrum of experience and a spectrum of familiarity of the people in your world with your project. If you can, it would be good to get a mix of both someone really experienced and or familiar and somebody inexperienced and not so familiar. The experienced and familiar people are going to have good backgrounds, good historical information, ways to do things that have worked in the past. The inexperienced and the unfamiliar people are going to be able to challenge those assumptions of the experienced people or to ask questions that maybe everybody else thinks might be obvious, but maybe they’re not. The other thing is a functional focus, and I spent some time on this earlier, just inviting different people from different functional groups that are going to be part of producing this product. Finally, the decision maker. If you’re creating a product where a decision maker needs to make the final decision, make sure they are involved somehow. They either should be part of the meeting or, if they can’t be, then another option is for you to create one or two options with different priorities that you resulted from the team, that you got out of your activity with the team, but just make sure that the decision makers involved. It is their responsibility to make a decision, so make them make it. Don’t let them see their authority.
Pizza rule: And we all know if you get a whole bunch of people in the room and you’re trying to make decisions about stuff and work on things, that doesn’t work either. So a lot of people say three to seven. I’ve seen up to nine, but I liked this point of reference that my friend gave me. If you decide you’re having a meeting and you tell them it’s a pizza party, you should only have to order one pizza and that’s it. If you can’t feed the people at your meeting with one pizza, then you have too many people, but a general rule of thumb is seven.
So this ADEPT framework, it is not only what you get out of doing it, but it’s also the types of activities that you follow to lead your team, and this is sort of a stepwise approach.
When I was looking at the latest poll, it looked like I create too many different versions of my product before it’s finally done was pretty much neck and neck with. I have a hard time getting feedback from my team, so I want to tell you that the answers to the quiz that I had you take in the beginning sort of line up with this. They not sort of they do line up with this ADDEPT system.
So what is your biggest challenge with designing products?
If you chose I create too many different versions of my product before it’s finally done, then you may need to work better on your alignment.
If you chose I have a hard time getting feedback from my team, you may want to work more on discovery.
If you think my work is nearly done and it gets picked apart, you may need to focus more on examining options.
And then, finally, my products fail many validation tests with users – you may need to work more on prioritizing.
Let’s take a look at each one of these.
A – With aligning is the first thing that you do when you’re working using a flow chart with your team With a goal. You always want to have your goal because you did the pre-work and you always have it visible. It’s at the top of the whiteboard, it’s at the agenda when you send it out. It’s at the top of whatever work surface. It should always be visible during the meeting. Everyone understands the scope and that you’ve picked a quality tool so that it’s a visual representation of what it is you’re trying to figure out. You can align around the quality tool to have discussions, to get information.
D – Now D does anybody remember what D is? It’s Discover. Now we want to work alone, together and have it time bound. This is something that’s heavily emphasized in a book called Sprint by Jake Knapp and a lot of Harvard business reviews and mirror articles. They also focus on this type of method too, and it does work. In this case, we are doing creation, we are discovering ideas about other people. We’re all working alone, but we’re doing it together in the same room and we’re limited with how much time we have to do this. It varies from 5, 10, or 15 minutes, depending on how complicated of a question that you have and if you can try to keep the discovery of new ideas anonymous, and that’s going to play into some of the later steps that we have here. Doing things this way when you can. It combats a lot of the problems that many of us may have experienced with the typical brainstorming type of activities that we’ve done.
E – Examining is where we take all those ideas and we group them, we define them, we refine them and we want to be positive about it, instead of saying, well, that’s a dumb idea, we don’t want to use that or that’s not going to work, that stinks. Instead, we say what is it about this idea we can use when we do have discussions? We’re doing it to clarify the ideas so that everybody can assess the different ideas by understanding the same thing about them. We don’t really want to have debates and we don’t want to have people presenting their idea, because that’s getting away from the anonymous part of it. If we do group activities, so group activities meaning we have a bunch of ideas and we want to take them aside and put them into different groups so we can learn more from them. We’re going to do that without talking, not going to clarify the different ideas, we just do it silently. That help assess, examine the ideas that people have created.
P – Then we can prioritize them. We want to have predefined criteria. Now sometimes that’s defined by the quality tool. Our critical to quality analysis has criteria to prioritize the different steps, and so does our value added analysis. The other things you can do to prioritize is use multi voting. For example, you give everyone five stickers and then everyone can put those stickers on different ideas that they like. They can put it all in one idea, it doesn’t matter. A two by two chart is another way to prioritize ideas and that could be like an urgent, important matrix. The key that would be helpful for your team is to always keep yes as the most desirable, not mixing it up, but yes is always a thing that people want the most.
T – And finally, teamwork we want to get consensus on one to two options with pros and cons Remember it’s a decider’s job to decide to let them and you want to gather the action items and follow up on it so you can use this model to help you design and create early concepts with quality tools.
So just imagine your results, your product design results, questioning and investigating within the problem space when you do that with your team, and imagine the teamwork when we use the ADEPT model, which is a mix of quality tools and some best practices learned from brainstorming.
Remember that we can design and create with quality tools. They’re not just something that we can use to check the quality at the back end. They’re actually a very useful visual tool for people to design around and you can use quality tools to focus on the user for early concept work before we even have any product design stuff done.
With all of this, you can hopefully see how you can use quality as a strategic asset, not just a check before things go out the door.
We’ve reviewed ADEPT and how you could use that for early concept development with your team, and the ADEPT way of thinking or the ADEPT system can really be used for any quality tool that you think is going to fit the need of whatever it is that you’re trying to learn more about. The ADEPT system is a way that you can apply quality during design with your cross-functional team in early concept development.
I had ended that webinar with a statement about using quality as a strategic asset, which is what we’re trying to do here when we’re thinking about using quality in early concept development. ASQ studies how quality is implemented in organizations and they report that only about one quarter to one third of our organizations view quality as a strategic asset, as a way to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. The rest of us see quality as a compliance activity or for continuous improvement or as just a way to fix problems and mitigate risks.
We should shift our thinking to think that quality is a strategic asset to product development and we can use it proactively to help us improve the development process. We can use quality engineering and reliability engineering to add more concept development and provide information to help us make decisions during the development so we can have those products that others love for less.
If you’d like to view the webinar, go to the website QualityDuringDesigncom. There is a picture link there that you can click and register onto BrightTalk. After you register, which is free, you’ll be able to view that webinar and lots of other ones, including the other webinars that were produced by Scott and the content Wrangler.
Qualityduringdesign.com is also filled with a lot of blogs that are associated with this podcast. It’s extra information and transcripts, extra links. There’s also access to free training and ways to subscribe to the weekly newsletter. Visit QualityDuringDesign.com and do some exploring and you’ll see that we’ve covered some specific quality tools and their application to product development in the blog history. This has been the production of Deeney Enterprises. Thanks for listening!