The role of Design Ops for the future of management

The role of Design Ops for the future of management

While most people working in customer-centric companies heard about the term service designer, very few people know what they do exactly and even fewer people heard about design ops.

If you look at the analogy between Dev Ops and Design Ops you can see the parallel of work tasks each of them does. They deal with the same underlying phenomenon: they handle the integrations and smooth operations between multiple systems.

Design ops is the role that covers the design of the integration of multiple systems for organizing a way of working and a unique playbook of an organization in the scope of growing it smoothly across all levels: people, operations, products/ services, and customer experience.

Organizations are complex systems in which very small differences in their initial conditions can lead to very different outcomes. As such, planning for those uncertain times and behaviors can prevent the malfunctioning of the organization and can lead to a better co-evolution of the environments that lead to the growth of the organization.

Companies of the future have a very specific characteristic that defines them. As we read in the book of Robert Kegan on “An everyone culture”, companies that do the walk and the talk of becoming a deliberately developmental company will thrive! Robert Kegan is the author of Adult developmental theory in which he highlights the need of adults to reconsider the systems in which they operate according to their initial mind programming. This type of rewiring the brain has been part of the research and practice I have applied for myself in the last 4–6 years. As such, I am not an expert, but an explorer of the topic and I invited the companies I consulted in the last 6 years to join me in finding out how we can improve their companies by looking at their way of doing things and at the WHY’s behind their actions. After consulting over 28 CEO’s across 3 continents in over 10 countries, I came to the conclusion that these are the 4 elements that define the way a business will grow:

1. The Knowledge

If you want to design the system of your organization, the first thing you should clarify is: What is the knowledge that you and your company have?

You can clarify this in many ways:

  • you can look at what is different in what you know about an industry/ field and the competition
  • you can think of something completely new that you will introduce to the market and be a preacher of a new terminology
  • you can limit yourself to something very specific and become an expert in that and build “flying hours” in that

Either way, your knowledge is like your IP. The intellectual property of startups is unique, patentable, and investible in.

2. The Framework

According to which framework are you going to use the knowledge that you have?

  • Is it an academic reference or framework?
  • Is it a commercial one?
  • Is it a non-profit?
  • Will you use it to do good?
  • Will you power up a methodology or toolkit across your organization that can, later on, become the “ new knowledge” of your organization?

All these questions will help you understand that the knowledge you have has a way of being passed on throughout your organization. You can call it playbook or learning and development but basically, this is the layer that is closest to the Operational level of your company. The COO will be the one handling this while the Design Ops will oversee the level above this and understand how the framework can be changed while still using the same knowledge but shifting some important components of the framework into other directions. In an existing company with a history of operations, this becomes the job of a change manager that manages organizational transformation.

3. The Asset

What is the product you are creating?

Understanding that the same knowledge can go into radically different products that monetize completely different from one another can help you pivot if you are in an early-stage or shift if you’ve saturated a market. Crossing the Chasm of Geoffrey Moore illustrates how assets have a lifecycle with their audience and thus will be redundant at some point, while the CORE knowledge remains every green for a company that builds legacy in one field. For example, a type of unique pivoting of a global electronics company that went from consumer electronics to medical electronics is Philips. The company is currently undergoing a transformation of its entire organization based on the fact that the core competence of Philips of building the best electronics with the best design remains. The company promises outlives its products! The same goes for Shell which discovered that they build a framework of working with their customers based on petrol stations and had built more than petrol product-related assets; they also have the widest global network of petrol stations on the side of the road. As such, their transformational organization is based on understanding the digital component of the role these places have in the life of their customers and engaging their audience with new products and services. Their consultants from Accenture have developed in the Digital department the Motorist app which provides additional services and “new assets” based on the knowledge and frameworks developed with their previous assets.

4. The Network

In which market or partnerships are you selling your asset and how?

The biggest concern when launching a product is how will the market perceive it. Developing durable partnerships with a network of companies and people with similar values is essential to keep the boat afloat. As such, Design ops need to think of every stakeholder involved in the value chain of the business. Either be it in the logistical area, in the marketing area, or in the board and investment area. All these contribute to the way in which the brand and company will perform on the market to their final customers, regardless of who they are.

Many companies in the automotive industry are now shifting from the dealers’ relationships to sell their cars online. The same will slowly happen to the bike industry. Many of these changes are connected to sales and marketing but have an impact on the overall business due to the change in the Network system dynamics.

Overall, businesses that design their systems of operations from an ethical, philosophical, and mission perspective will thrive at achieving quantifiable impact both economically and socially.

This article was initially published on Medium and adapted here for new purposes. If you’re interested in the original version, you can check it out further here.