Principle one: Look at the big picture, but don’t get lost in it

  • Agreeing measures and metrics
  • Finding the edges of your experience
  • Narrowing your focus for the future
  • Aligning on terminology
  • Checking your bias for existing or future solutions

Setting a vision and goals

The first part of creating any new experience, or even iterating upon an existing one, is to take a step back and look at the big picture of what you are trying to achieve. Setting a clear vision and goals for your experience and how you’ll define success, is critical for later on in the process.

Agreeing measures and metrics of success

One of the questions often asked at the start of the project is: “How will we know if we’ve been successful?” Often, this is answered with some high-level goals and success criteria, which is fine, but we also need to go deeper. It’s important to set and agree measures and metrics of success so you can use data to drive decision making.

Finding the edges of your experience

One of the tricks to speed is managing your circle of concern so you don’t get lost in the big picture. Putting boundaries around what you need to consider as part of the experience will allow your team to concentrate their efforts on where the value lies and not spin their wheels on low-value areas.

In the early stages of looking at the big picture, the boundaries for the team should be wide but they should keep their research to a shallow depth to move at speed.

Narrowing your focus for the future

The big picture is great for giving the team a vast amount of context and understanding of where the product or service operates. However, one of the main purposes of looking at the bigger picture is to ultimately help you define what the smaller, more detailed picture should look like: redefining the experience edges or creating a smaller constrained area of the experience for the current or future teams to focus on.

Aligning on terminology

Often missed when understanding the big picture is aligning on domain language and terminology. If not done correctly, a vast amount of time can be lost due to innocent misunderstandings, individuals talking past each other, teams pulling in different directions or just having a different understanding of words. I’ve learned that sometimes understanding is easy, on other occasions it can take time, so be patient with each other and always be respectful, humble and human.

  1. A conceptual domain model — detailing domain objects and their relationships helps to define core business concepts and constraints.
A conceptual domain model — detailing domain objects and their relationships helps to define core business concepts and constraints.

Checking your bias for existing or future solutions

We often design solutions based on our past projects, specialist skills, life experiences and unvalidated understanding of the requirements. This is natural and often helps us make decisions and guide solutions quickly. However, it’s important to check a bias towards a particular solution and make sure you’re not guiding it based on subjective opinions for a particular approach, requirement or solution.

Conclusions

This article covered several key themes for how looking at the big picture can provide valuable information and context to the team, fuelling their decisions and setting them up for onward success. In summary…

  • Find the edges and boundaries of your experience, go broad, but not too broad and try not to go too deep unless you are confident you need to
  • Set up future success by using what you’ve learned to narrow your future focus
  • Align on terminology and domain language to mitigate time spent on confusion
  • Take an unbiased view of the existing and future solutions

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