Strategy, design, and technology disciplines have hundreds of terms and methodologies for discovering challenges, framing opportunities, testing ideas, and executing solutions. In order to have productive planning conversations, project teams must agree on those definitions. What do we mean by “prototype?” What’s the difference between high-fidelity and production-ready? What is a messaging framework? Defining all of those terms is essential work; one misunderstanding can lead to stress, missed deadlines, and wasted time. Our project teams and clients needed a way to get on the same page, fast.
We set out to find approaches that worked better for us and found nothing that increased understanding quickly and easily. So we asked ourselves:
How might we create a system for educating users about methods, resolve semantics debate and facilitate better collaboration?
The iF Method Deck project was born.
We set a high bar for success. Using the Method Deck should result in:
- More nuanced project plans with specific references to methods
- More nuanced discussion about the work, and less about semantics
- More collaborative planning interactions among team members
The Method Deck would have to be adaptable and scalable. That meant developing a core deck of most commonly used methods across design, strategy, and technology, and augmenting it with a companion digital asset with additional details.
- Blank cards to list the challenge, audience, and desired outcomes
- Method cards, to explore what actions might help deliver a solution
- Deliverable cards, to show the artifact that will be created
- Framing cards, to group activities with the 3 stages of any project: Research, Design, Production
Book of iF: digital companion
- Relational database tied to our company CRM
- Instructions for executing each method
- Previous projects where each method was employed
Remember the power of analog. We opted for physical cards after determining that digital solutions didn’t lend themselves easily to collaboration and would require significant technical investment.
Use clear language. The resources we found suffered from unnecessary jargon or empty marketing speak. We sought to explain methods and process in an intuitive, accessible way.
Reinforce and maintain. To prevent definitions from drifting back to previous incarnations, we deliberately used and restated terms frequently. We also assigned a small team to maintain and update the system.
Allow for unique expression. There was a risk of over-generalizing terms to the point where they meant nothing. Our framework allowed for general terms (“facilitation”) and specific (“gap analysis”).
Project teams couldn’t wait to get their hands on the iF Method Deck and the companion digital database. The cards became a fixture of planning meetings where multi-disciplinary teams could hash out initial approaches for a program or revise an existing program.
Clients also got into the game, as the system is accessible and fun enough for everyone to use. We noticed an increase in client interest and engagement during project scoping, the most important phase of any project.