Stakeholder Management: Participatory design

Early on in my career, I designed a home healthcare delivery application using participatory design. Particpatory Design Experience

Participatory design is a design process that manages the stakeholders by including them and target users. Research, analysis and design are done with the stakeholders and users. Sometimes this is referred to as co-design.

Participatory design included the key client roles in the design process. We would meet in a room with the subject matter experts for eight hours. We would do the business analysis and walk-through the workflows. Then we would explore what the subject matter expert did. We would take this information and begin to design the application.

The advantage of the work is that the user is in the room with you as you design.

The disadvantages that everything takes twice as long.


Copyright 2016 Frictionless Design LLC

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Always show more than one design

You spend days and weeks working on your latest brilliant idea. You have reviewed it with your colleagues and have tested it with users. You are now ready to show it to the key stakeholder.

You walk in his office and sit down. You chat a bit and then get down to business. You pull out your designs and start walking through. He asks a few questions and you answer well.

At some point the conversation turns. He starts saying how it is not what he expected. You point out that the users love it but he is not convinced. He has an idea in his mind that solves the problem in a better way but he is never able to verbalize this. He just manages to keep critiquing the design.

You leave frustrated.

What can you do to avoid this target practice?
1) Make sure you always bring multiple designs to a review.
2) Have the reviewer compare designs and identify what works and does not work. Avoid what he likes and does not like.
3) Involve him earlier in the process. Get his thoughts early on so you are not surprised by the questions.

A large part of design is about being an effective communicator. This requires gathering and reviewing information not only from your users but also stakeholders. As the process moves along continuous sharing and testing provides a mutually beneficial process of learning and ownership. Sharing multiple designs allows you to learn more about how people think. With all of this information in hand you can drive the stakeholders and organization to the best solution.


See my presentation on managing your stakeholders.

Empowering the HiPPO


Copyright 2016 Frictionless Design LLC

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