97 UX Things

Christy Ennis-Kloote - Embrace a Shared Cadence to Avoid Silos

March 22, 2022 Christy Ennis-Kloote & Dan Berlin Season 2 Episode 6
97 UX Things
Christy Ennis-Kloote - Embrace a Shared Cadence to Avoid Silos
Show Notes Transcript

Christy Ennis-Kloote provides tips on how to keep large teams informed and collaborating efficiently.

Dan Berlin:

Hi everyone and welcome to another edition of the 97 UX Things podcast. Dan Berlin here, your host and book editor. I'm joined this week by Christie Ennis-Kloot, who wrote the chapter Embrace a Shared Cadence to Avoid Silos. Welcome, Christy.

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

Thank you, Dan. Thanks for having me.

Dan Berlin:

Thanks for joining the podcast. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

Sure thing, I am a Director of Product Design at a small studio, Argenta Park. And that is a new role for me stepping in as of recently, but I just came away from my previous place, that was OST, as a design practice leader of a larger team of 30. And this new team, I'm with a much smaller team, under 20 people.

Dan Berlin:

Gotcha. And where do you tend to focus your work? Are you more on the research side, design... strategy?

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

Yeah, this new place especially fits my background, that my space has been around the connected product experiences. So for me, I really enjoy the complexity of those multimodal experiences. And when you have to pull a variety of skill sets together to pull off those experiences.

Dan Berlin:

Cool. And yeah, can you tell us about your UX journey? How did you discover UX? And how did you wind up where you are today?

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

Absolutely. When I came in to this space, I... even from high school, if you could believe it, I went down a journey to explore what was the difference between graphic design and physical product design. And while that seems like a chasm of a stretch, in some ways, it actually wasn't. I started, because of the engineering side, going down learning physical product design, but I always found myself working on digital products. And in my study abroad in college, I studied at an art school for a year and I got exposure to a master's program they were starting there on digital experience design. And they happened to have product that was the new handy, as they call it there in Germany. I mean, it was the new mobile phone, next generation for Siemens, and I got my first exposure to what it meant to design for digital, and even see what real research was. But also in I took a quick break and saw in the UK, they were starting an actual interaction program. And so that was the beginning of a journey for me to see there is a space here, there is this in-between. So, like many, it's not a straight path, but you pick up where your strengths are, and move into it. And I've just always been on the place and space of consulting. So I've been with... this will be my fourth studio to move into. So, I've just really enjoyed the variety in the work and solving for all these unique problem spaces.

Dan Berlin:

Right. Yeah, I've been at agency life my whole time, too. I'm totally right there with you. You mentioned discovering your strengths. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? How did you go about that discovering your strengths?

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

Yeah. Well, I can say particularly, I never expected myself in a place of leadership or leading teams. But what I found is, I think, I hate to also use sports analogies, but when I see an opportunity and seeing that nobody else is stepping into that, you take it, right? You see the ball coming and you go get it, because I do love soccer. But that's what I've seen, is leveraging that strength of my own and learning to embrace that. It's something that I would say, totally relates to this chapter. But you look for where everybody does have their strengths of what they're really good at. And so for myself, I found I'm somehow really good with a lot of different variety of details. That's the thing I really enjoy. So wrangling all the things that are in motion, I actually somehow do enjoy context switching quite a bit. So that's what I've learned to just embrace it, because it's something that I can do and I get comfortable with. And it's not for everybody. And that's totally okay.

Dan Berlin:

Agreed. Something you said in the very beginning that resonated with me. One of the mantras I always tell folks is if you see a need, fill it. Find a way to fill it. And that's the best way to move things forward.

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

Yeah. And I had to learn hard and sometimes I catch myself, but not to wait always for permission. I mean, sometimes by the time you've waited for permission to move into that space, it's too late, right? Or you've really dragged out the opportunity. And it could have been fixed so much sooner. Because you see something uniquely from your own experiences and so you could see the problem from a way that somebody else doesn't see, so you could go address it.

Dan Berlin:

Yup. I I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, go for it and ask for forgiveness if need be...

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

Right!

Dan Berlin:

...I'd have a couple of bucks because it's a good life lesson.

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

Yeah. I feel like that's the 80/20. 80% of the time people would prefer you just did that.

Dan Berlin:

So you mentioned your chapter, Embrace a Shared Cadence to Avoid Silos. Can you tell us about that, please?

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

Absolutely. So when... I work here in a lot of this consulting space. We move across a lot of different organizations and a lot of different variety of team settings. And especially for these complex products, I just cannot imagine how something actually gets moved through if you do keep it focused in the silo in which... gives maybe someone a space for control, but it's not going to move the thing forward. So when I look at this, what you can do, if you move as a whole group, there's just so much impact you can make across a multimodal kind of product, exactly that space that I truly enjoy sitting in. But you have to be willing to step in and embrace others' strengths, and know the space that you sit in. But it's what it takes to pull off the complexity of the new world we all work in.

Dan Berlin:

So tell us about that. How are we breaking down those silos? How are we ensuring that there is this cross-team collaboration? Are there methods or ways that we can ensure we're doing this in an efficient, effective way?

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

Yeah. When I look at this, everybody knows the language of the whole Agile over Waterfall. Waterfall definitely appeals itself to being in a singular, one team at a time motions. But the coordination, like great choreography, bringing different teams in at the right times, I've seen things like... I am an advocate for SAFe, that's Scaled Agile Framework for Enterprises that I do enjoy, because it does look at the dependencies across all these streams of work and looks for where does everybody need to take their step in so then the other person can step out? Or where do we need to actually make that dance together, so we can come to the solution. So I do have three different, very simple ways to suggest that you could start to move into that. So when I say a shared cadence, you could say it's a meeting. It doesn't have to be a meeting, it has to just be a rhythm that you set together. Because that rhythm starts to build that intimacy as a team. And you can rely on each other to come through. But I say... there's a couple key things, it's... keep it brief, all you need to do is make sure that you're using that smallest slice of time, and hopefully not disrupting somebody in their flow of work. But keep it brief, to at least just give some update and some status of where you're at. And make it real, you want to actually see the work come to life. Have something demonstrable that you can show this progress toward something. So with every cadence, it could be even just a snippet or some kind of like proof of value. Because it's what really connects and builds belief while you're building these products. But then I also suggest, get some time to truly reflect on where this fits in the bigger goal. Because I think when everybody has some orientation to the larger outcome we're all driving towards, it helps them see... Where does my work fit in? How does this all come together? And then you can help as a shared goal together, and know how all of these pieces come together. It gives an understanding that you all can own as that narrative together of what's really happening. So when somebody asks a question, you don't have to go, I don't know, I don't know what that person's doing, they're doing their thing. But no, you know what they're doing, you know why this is all coming together as it is.

Dan Berlin:

It sounds like you're suggesting in essentially these meetings, ensuring that you're covering both the tactical and strategic for everyone.

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

Yeah, I keep thinking about it as like, they're all streams running at the same time. But you want to make sure there's a touch point. There's a place where it connects intentionally so you're not letting that slip away.

Dan Berlin:

You mentioned people stepping out in then the SAFe process. You also just talked about keeping a cohesive team and building that together. What are your thoughts on people stepping out during a project, especially when they are gonna step back in.

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

It can be hard to let people step out and step back in. But I think that's where having regular places

Dan Berlin:

I tend to be a little too tactical. That said, where you can demonstrate the work lets somebody feel at least somewhat in tune to what's actually happening. So when it is their role to come, say their line, right, or whatever, and come in and play their part. They know what's happened up to this point and they understand the context of... where is the project in the progress of where we're headed? I'll throw out for example, you might be working with somebody that manages the data side of what's happening, maybe as a data analyst, or you might be working with somebody that is working on maybe the website of the experience and you have a dependency on the content coming or you have a dependency on a service that has to be plugged in and working, some API, and you want to make sure that you know when and where and who owns that so that when you get there, they're just as ready as you're ready to connect those two parts. But yeah, you might not need to be actually working side by side on those, but sometimes you do. Some of the parts of the pieces are so dependent on each other that you do want to make sure you're almost working side by side. are there... Is there documentation or methods that you're using to keep people on the same track?

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

I love product roadmaps, so at least we can see what are the pieces and parts that are coming in when. And not saying that those are actually static things, I hope they're always treated like living things that maybe something will be learned, something has to move forward, or maybe something has to get pushed back. But then the teams have something to point to of... this is our truth, this is what we believe. So there is a plan, a map that they can see the vision of where are we going. But at the same time, where are the live parts and pieces as they're coming together? We use Miro a lot. I have some hesitations about the security on Miro, but we have a lot of other tool sets that allow for that visibility of the work that you can actually see the pieces coming together. And that's why I say to demonstrability of the code, even. I mean, code is code. And for a designer, if you're not familiar with or able to sit with code, at least see what it's doing. At some point, even if it's still very raw and how it's visually coming together, you can see the impact.

Dan Berlin:

Right.

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

Yeah.

Dan Berlin:

You mentioned how the roadmap needs to be ever changing. And I'm right there with you on that. Tell me about the planning. Because if you plan too far out, then what you have planned for, you know, eight months out is bunk.

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

Yeah.

Dan Berlin:

How do you go about that planning, especially when different departments may have different cadences?

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

I think about that... especially too when different departments might have other teams dependent on them too. And they have to prioritize their work into the whole flow. That's... it's a lot of coordinated pieces. So when you think about the effort that you're going to have to serve for one team or another... I do... it's that cone of certainty, right? I do think there is a... what is in the near term? We can we say with more confidence. But as it gets out more like eight weeks, 12 weeks out, that's when you almost have to have a planned reset. So they call that PI planning, like product increment planning. And so there is a time for most teams that is about every eight to 12 weeks where they do take another point in time to take almost a day or two to stop and reflect and reset that vision of what's happening in the next three months. And then rejigger the farther uncertainty that's out there. Because I think as teams are putting together their budgets and their yearly plans, they need to know how much effort is out in front of them that they need to be standing up and having some readiness to run at whatever velocity is being asked to them. So yeah. But I have one other tip of like, as we're all going through this looking at what does it mean as a team, we try to look for a theme that everybody can get behind that they understand why all these pieces, it's not that you're just throwing a bunch of features in because it's a wish list of feature requests. But it's something that a whole team can get behind that there's something that this solves for a user or somebody need. That they understand the outcome that they're driving towards. So it's not as prescriptive, and they can do their creativity in the work, but it is helping get to a higher outcome together.

Dan Berlin:

I love that documenting the why behind the features, you don't see that very often, honestly...

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

Yeah.

Dan Berlin:

...just see a list of features and here we go.

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

But that motivation a team can have together that they all know what they're doing, and the outcome that they're driving. I mean, it takes a real maturity for a team to come to this. But I also think about that there's a thing out there called an equation of trust. And that's about credibility, reliability, intimacy and self-orientation. And I think this cadence builds that intimacy piece that you have a regular touch point and you know... you almost know how somebody is feeling or how they're doing to know if you can still rely on them or give them that space they need because maybe something else was going on. But maybe at least once a week or every other week you'll know where they're at, to know if you can trust them and rely on for them to step in or, it will all come together that way.

Dan Berlin:

You mentioned team maturity. Let's focus there for a moment. Let's say we want to build that from scratch and sure the shared cadence in terms of the meeting and sharing information seems like a wonderful first step and a continued step, but what else should we be considering there?

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

Yeah, I think about experience levels across the team, right? You've got to have somebody have like, who's going to own what pieces and if that's a maturity, the team knows how to rely on each other and I think about expectations, even for everybody, at every point in the process, somebody knowing what's expected of them. So they know the role they're playing, then people can come in with more confidence to like, this is my part to play. And that's when I think about maturity of team, who is helping set that guidance and who's putting that together. It takes real, you know... you got to find some good strength and leadership in that or, coach people through that leadership. Starting somewhere is better than nowhere. So, I mean, I've worked with so many different groups that this is where I'm going, there is no one way to do it. But there's a lot of tools out there that can help different teams. If you are a budding team, just having a Kanban board, you can start there, you don't have to go all the way to a highly elevated like SAFe planning across multiple teams. Just having something to make the work visible and understand what you're doing. Yeah, you don't have to be prescriptive to any one tool set, or method

Dan Berlin:

That said, you did mention a Kanban board. Can you... there may be folks who are unfamiliar with that. Can you fill us in?

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

Yeah, so the simplest way of a Kanban board... I think of it's a to do, doing, and done. And you list each one of the steps or pieces and break down the work to small enough nuggets that you can get it done in the timelines that you're working in. So we say if you can sit... we've talked about this where, I mean, you might put down a goal that you want to solve. I want to solve for hunger, I'm like, oh my God that's audacious, that's not a thing. But you want to be able to provide somebody a menu, so they can plan, that's getting much closer down to something that's a version of a menu. And you can see that the person can plan from it. That's almost getting them a toolset. Also, you want them to be able to understand choices of the day, to know that they're fitting their diet or something. I mean, that gets into something nitty gritty that people can work with. So we highly encourage breaking down work. But there's some times that you do need those big, audacious things. So you can get that orientation. And I encourage teams too, put that in the backlog, but call it out for what it is. We call it a spike. But it could be something that you need to actually block time to make sure we conceptually all have the same mindset around what is this big furry thing? I'll throw for you too... I actually did, during the pandemic, asked my kids to break down their own work. And we put them on little sticky notes. So they can move their work through and actually feel like they were getting things done. I mean, making it physical or making it a thing, it was less abstract so people could actually see the work moving and feel accomplishments.

Dan Berlin:

Great. Thanks for all that. Was there anything else about your chapter that you were hoping to convey to folks here today?

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

Yeah. When I think about these shared cadences, I really like to break down the walls and barriers that are perceived, but maybe people don't talk about it. It helps a team know, you're together, even though you come from all these different backgrounds. And doing it together makes it seemed owned together. So it doesn't create this blame culture of they did this or did that. No, we own it together. And you can see it and feel it. And it really brings a team in a trust so that it gives each other more freedom to create that safety together and push and ask questions. So I would encourage people when you really embrace others that are a part of delivering this with you, it gives you so much more room as a designer to have the harder conversations and push on each other to how to be creative in solving for it. So if we sat in our corners and waited for somebody to ask us about it, it would never happen. So I push people hard to make it a part of your... if you embrace this, you're gonna have so much more opportunity to do the things that you want to do and encourage people to get there.

Dan Berlin:

And how you approach it, it should be a part of everything that you do. The way that you talk about the project and the team. It's cliche to say there's no I in team but even when you're writing an email, for example, it's not I it's we.

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

Yeah, it's our problem, right? If you put it in their bucket to fill, nobody wants to work in that alone. We're all real people at the core of it, solving for real people problems. So yeah, I encourage this... it's about embracing other people and embracing through this cadence. It really does help break down those silos.

Dan Berlin:

Yeah. Cool. Thanks for all that all. Wonderful tips about bringing folks together. Really actionable, so thanks for that. In our last segment, we like to get a career tip for folks. Whether they're breaking into UX or have a lot of experience, do you have a career tip that you'd like to share?

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

Yeah, I'd like to bring it back to when I

Dan Berlin:

Yeah, that's one of the benefits of having UX as a opened this up and we were talking about strengths. As things are so rapidly changing, there are programs out there that are starting to get actually pretty disciplined and teaching methodologies and I'm seeing some really great people come out of programs compared to when I came out of school. But I think about when I'm putting together a team, we leverage people's strengths. So coming back to that, I've worked with people that come from a background of teaching, come from a background in, maybe, writing, or even those that have come through seminary school. All of this stuff actually does really matter because I can use the strengths they have in the way they think and approach problems. They come with their unique perspectives and I would say leverage that to own that. For anybody coming into this, you have some interesting strengths. And I would say if you own that, uniquely, you're going to stand out or be able to offer something that you can authentically step into, because it's something you already do well. Leverage that. Everything across what we design needs that variety, so there's a place for it. So I don't like people to give up or feel like they're playing a role that they shouldn't play. But I'm like, no, no, you belong in this space just as much too. second career. For a lot of folks, we found this as a second career and we have that initial experience and all of those shared different experiences on a shared team makes for

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

Yeah, I think it was imposter syndrome goodness. is what I'm trying to use that I'm like, nobody should feel like an imposter in this space. You come to it with something that you should own authentically, so.

Dan Berlin:

Right. Right. Well, Christy, this has been a wonderful conversation. Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast here today. My guest today has been Christy Ennis-Kloote who wrote the chapter Embrace a Shared Cadence to Avoid Silos. Thanks for joining me, Christy.

Christy Ennis-Kloote:

Thank you, Dan. This was great.

Dan Berlin:

It's been a lot of fun. And thanks for listening, everyone. You've been listening to the 97 UX things podcast companion to the book 97 Things Every UX Practitioner Should Know published by O'Reilly and available at your local bookshop. All book royalties go to UX nonprofits as well any funds raised by this podcast. The theme music is Moisturize the Situation by Consider the Source and I'm your host and book editor Dan Berlin. Please remember to find the needs in your community and fill them with your best work. Thanks for listening.