Design Powered Action



The pace of change and transformation and initiatives and ‘insert your favorite business-bingo term’ is evident. We see it - feel it - everyday. It’s the constant pressure everyone feels - from the newly minted graduate to the Fortune 50 CEO. It’s inescapable; it’s the new-norm of the business world. We see the ‘listacles' every day: 5 ways to be more productive, 7 key practices to make your organization more nimble, the 62 simple steps to work-life balance. Clearly this chaos is here, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. 


So what to do. Well, this article isn't the answer. There is no answer; there is only focus, adjustment, and clarity for you. Enter design. Bologna (or other descriptors) you say. “We’ve heard the design-can-save-you mantra before, but my new iPhone and super cool pen-holder do nothing to help me improve my business.” We understand, and we agree. When we at XPLANE say design, we mean the clarifying, unifying visual artifacts that help remove ambiguity. This will always be true. But we ALSO mean the design of the approach and effort - the elements of unpacking and sensemaking that bring about big ideas and incremental steps. Monumental answers and nuanced adjustments. It’s design as it applies in the approach to your thinking and engagement with your employees and business.  

Warning: sensible action ahead. Try this design exercise to organize your business’ capacity for change:

Initiative modeling: Capture the framework for any initiative within your organization on a simple 5x7 card. Really draw it out: title, simple scope, timeline, owner, team, purpose, and goal. Don’t make it harder than that. Do it again - make it better and clearer this time. You now have an initiative template.

Organize the Initiatives: You’ll need some colored markers. Don’t be afraid, and don’t worry about them being on-brand. Look at all the initiatives you have and color-code them per functional group: IT is green, Operations is purple, HR is burnt-orange; you get the idea.

Capacity Framing: Clear a big wall. Take down the business posters and last-year’s company picnic photo - get some real wall space. Section off three areas and label them as follows: Pipeline, In-Process, and Completed. Now get to work - put all the initiative cards for your business up in the proper areas and stand back and observe your work. It’s probably a mess, and skewed to the ‘Pipeline’ column. Time for more design - start to categorize, edit per date, plan, reiterate, reorganize.



This will take time and this framing will likely change, but guess what, you just designed a capacity model for your business.  Benefit? It will give everyone that walks by a greater insight into what’s actually happening with all that change and transformation buzzing around. All with design.

Drew Mattison is the Vice President of Business Development at XPLANE.

XPLANE's xBlog has been up and running since 1999. 

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