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Stakeholder Experience Design

With Mike Costanzo

A look at’s project process. The goal is to guide your clients to experiences that make them feel grounded and in control.


Design is more than how it looks

Fear is the mind-killer (and why they’re important to manage)

Fear and loathing on the project kickoff (why starting an agile project right, with clarity and alignment is important)

Lose them at the beginning, you’ve lost them for good (making stakeholders feel comfortable and in control by applying a repeatable framework)

The Clarity Canvas

Design is more than how it looks

  • Why design the stakeholder experience?

    • NOTE: Web design and app design are radically different

    • Most people don’t know what application designers do

    • The shift from websites to web apps is so subtle that most people don’t know the difference

    • Design is more than how it looks. It’s about how it works

    • We can design the ecosystems we use to make these work

  • "Designers make things look pretty"

    • "It was mostly our fault that people think of designers this way" - Mike Costanzo

      • Early on, design was all about translating and selling meaning to someone (a very advertising mentality)

        • Early web and print design had a lot in common, but not a lot of interactivity just yet
      • Software is much more complex than print design

    • The classical ad agency model (e.g. packaging, print design, marketing design) struggles to effectively transition and design for the WWW

  • Selling your work

    • "In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create" - David Ogilvy

    • This need for business-driven design forces you to design WITH people (vs. designing FOR people):

      • You start partnering with them to demonstrate value

      • Generate empathy + attention to detail

      • The first experience you design is for the stakeholders

Fear is the Mind Killer

  • Agile transformations take time

  • Fear and anxiety are basic, primordial responses to our environment. Resistance is futile. so manage it!

    • Part of your job is to help them understand that agile transformations take time and incremental improvement (your stakeholders might be associating agile wth a broken process)

    • Fear = external danger; Anxiety = internal concern

    • The unknown and uncertain trigger anxiety

  • You can’t beat biology. Never underestimate the effects of fear and anxiety in decision-making

    • Agile inspires this fear: Agile feels too different and too unstructured to even be trusted.

Fear and Loathing in the Project Kickoff

  • Clarity and alignment is important. Shared context is vital (because you’re moving so quickly in an agile project):

    • Quick communication channels and faster decision-making is an agile goal

    • Set clarity of vision

    • Alignment of goals

    • Starting from the same point (in space and time)

  • When you start with the same context, your divergences will not be too far off (POINT: Divergences will happen; you don’t want them to be too divergent/disparate)

  • Towards a better kickoff:

    • Start with a clear vision that is agreed upon. Get the right people in the room.

    • Align on goals so you know where you need what you need to achieve and how to get there becomes clearer

    • Starting with shared context and alignment will make the project run smoother and the team more effective.

The Clarity Canvas: A Repeatable Framework

  • Principles:

    • Drop your ego

      • Your ego won’t help you build a great stakeholder experience. It’ll just make life difficult for you.
    • Understand their perspective

      • They’re the expert about their product, company, industry. This makes them a valuable partner to you.
    • Align on their outcomes

      • Build trust

      • You don’t want them to on command and control mode - it’s a self-preservation mechanism

      • Show them that you’re committed to the same outcomes as they are

  • Stakeholders aren’t approval machines. Build empathy for them, just as you would for end-users

  • Techniques at

    • The Clarity Canvas (

      • Project Focus; Pre-Sales Assesment

        • Market Driven (P/M fit)

        • Usability Driven (Ease of Use)

        • Quality Driven (Accurate and Reliable)

      • Structure

        • Project Goals

          • Outcomes you want to see in this project
        • Target Users/Key Stakeholders

          • Whose goals and concerns do we need to address to make this project successful?
        • Usr Journey

        • Risks and Assumptions

          • Should be identified sooner than later

          • Riskier assumptions = faster derailing possibility

    • User Story Mapping (Product Planning)

      • Takes the User Journey and maps that over time

        • User Activities (Backbone)

        • User Tasks (Walking skeleton)

        • User Stories (slices as releases)

          • These User Stories is the project management piece
    • Facilitation

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