One of the most challenging aspects of the Design Process, is in fact assuring that the participation of the essential team members is guaranteed, and that everyone is aware of what is going to be requested from them, from a time, function and insights perspective. Here’s a few recommendations on how to tackle this type of challenge.

Map Out Everything — Not every Design Process is going to be as straightforward as what is outlined in the Google Design Sprints format (learn or refresh more about this process here). In fact, of all the organizations I’ve worked with so far, only one provided the ability to execute a format similar to the Google Design Sprints. The challenge in executing those sprints as per their definition, lies with the fact that most attendees have other responsibilities assigned to them. The fact that they’re asked to carve out an entire week to go through an incubation process, is a hefty challenge, most of the times something they can’t really fathom or satisfy. Now people reading those previous statements may simply state that priorities are established and everyone needs to comply with them. But the reality is that bigger organizations, also present a layered and diverse array of priorities, and not all of them are going to have the same focus for everyone. All of these statements to say: getting every single attendee to devote 8 daily hours to an incubation cycle, is something that is not going to be realistic for many teams and organizations. Which is where deconstructed Design Sprints appear, and where timelines are expanded in order to support everyone’s schedule, while still pursuing the innovation cycle that is at the core of what is intended to be done. One of the deliverables that I’ve come to deliver (and that I’ve trained my teams on delivering) throughout the years and that plays a role in reinforcing attendance and participation is a mapping of the sessions that is associated with an initiative. This mapping includes the following aspects: listing of attendees, timeline of the initiative, number of sessions, dates of sessions, duration of sessions, activities and topics for each session, deliverables from the sessions, what is needed for each session, reading materials/preparation for each session, essentially, a blueprint for what is going to occur and what the outcome for the initiative is going to be.

Eliciting Participation — Another aspect that drives further involvement in the Design process is requesting active engagement on artifacts that are essential to the process itself. That can include for instance, feedback on elements surrounding Research documentation (one thing that participants on the process always react with devoted interest includes Screeners and Interview Guides). Other aspects that typically attendees on the process value tremendously involves customer related activities, be it Voice of the Customer sessions, User Interviews, or even Contextual Inquiries, since it typically allows for the participants to get a closer and more pertinent knowledge of what is happening with the target audience of the initiative that is currently in motion.

Overcoming Passivity — One of the things to always keep in mind for Design professionals, is the fact that you are indeed a catalyst and facilitator, in addition to everything else you’re responsible for. Which means, you will have to keep in check who is coming to the sessions, making sure they’re participating, and that everyone feels they’re included in the process (there’s no tourists in the process, and the process is not a sight seeing type of tour experience). It may seem like an extra step, and sometimes a cumbersome one, but a Design professional should always keep in mind that for a process to actually succeed and for it to be impactful, it does require an active engagement and participation from everyone who has been chartered for the endeavor taking place. Everyone does have a role to play, and the risk of omission is the delivery of a solution that may tilt in directions that are not necessarily the most pertinent one, for the lack of collaboration and participation from the team members that are needed. Myopic product solutions (you can read more about this statement here) are problematic, and eventually surface issues that have to be addressed. Making sure to send regular updates on the progression of the engagement is equally important. I’ve come to provide updates on a weekly basis to all the participants of the process, so that they all are well aware of the progression of the endeavor itself. For those who are not able to attend sessions, find ways to interact with them outside of the booked sessions, and give them the updates that are needed for them to successfully accompany (and contribute) what is taking place in the working sessions.

Participation in Design processes can be and it is indeed challenging. Schedules are always a murky quicksand, but if there’s something that the last few years and the evolution of collaboration has taught us, is that collaboration does thrive independently of location, timezones and even roles. Our differences, our backgrounds and points of view, of everyone who gets to participate in these endeavors, is what makes them more rewarding, and ultimately successful (including Users/Clients obviously).

Harry Truman wrote:

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

Brief Considerations on Design Topics: 22. Participation Challenges was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.