The importance of a team in design
As an IBM Scenario Designer, one of the major successes I see in design is working as a team with shared responsibility and commitment to a common goal.
My real world experience with teams comes from the days when I rowed competitively and I very quickly discovered that in boat of 4 or 8 that each had their own skill; some were stronger, some quicker, some fitter, some with better technique. To get the best performance we all needed to be working together with the same tempo, same strength, same synchronicity and same commitment otherwise our individual actions hurt the team and our overall goal.
Boat positions within an 8+ shell - from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boat_positions.
The rower closest to the front or bow of a multi-person shell. The bow pair, who are the two rowers closest to the boat's bow, are more responsible for the stability (called "set") and the direction of the boat than any other pair of rowers, and are often very technical rowers. The bow of a stern-coxed boat is subject to the greatest amount of pitching, requiring the bow pair to be adaptable and quick in their movements. Bowmen tend to be the smallest of the rowers in the boat.
Coxswain or "cox"
The oar-less crew-member who is responsible for steering, race strategy and providing motivation and encouragement to the crew.
The middle rowers of a crew (numbers 2 and 3 in a four, and 3, 4, 5 and 6 in an eight) are normally the most powerful and heaviest rowers, colloquially known as the Fuel Tank, Engine Room, Power House or Meat Wagon. The boat pitches and yaws less in the middle, and the rowers there have less effect on these movements, being closer to the centre of mass and centre of buoyancy. Therefore the rowers in the middle of the boat do not have to be as technically sound or reactive to the movements of the boat, and can focus more on pulling as hard as they can. It is common practice among crews to put the most technically proficient rowers at the bow and stern and the physically strongest and heaviest rowers in the centre.
The rower closest to the stern of the boat, responsible for the stroke rate and rhythm. Everyone else follows the stroke's timing - placing their blades in and out of the water at the same time as stroke. Because of the great responsibilities, the rower in the stroke seat will usually be one of the most technically sound members of the boat.
I see this life experience applicable to design when you have multiple people with different skills and roles participating in the design process, including those roles that represent leadership, the business, engineering and design, with some roles representing mostly the user, some the buyer and some the technical aspects of the solution and these roles often do overlap so this can cause conflict.
So each person on the team has their purpose and it is important for each to understand the boundaries and how to leverage the skills of the others.
An example of how a team might interact to support design can be shown in this example Stakeholder Map for a specific capability of the system:
Now it might seem that a lot of people are needed to be effective in design but many people play multiple roles in the process and understanding the role being played and their perspective is essential to getting an effective design. Back to my rowing example: if I am rowing in the bow (at the front of the boat) there is no point in trying to set the rowing stroke rate (tempo) where nobody can see my tempo but it is my role to alter my strength to help keep the boat on course, as after the cox who is steering, bow can most influence the direction and stability of the boat, whilst stroke sets the tempo.
Throughout a race there is constant adjustment, where there is a high tempo and strength at the start to get ahead of the competition, then a period of stability, before the final push to the end. Racing is tactical and requires not only the physical capabilities, but strategy to adjust to the competition, and understanding each other’s strengths and weakness. There is no point in rowing at 50 beats per minute for the entire race, if nobody can keep up, so accommodation is needed.
Now to develop these race skills, requires the team to constantly training at different pace, distance and endurance, all as part of a plan and common goal. The race is won in the months before.
The same is true, in creating effective design, it requires team collaboration, with constant adjustment. It means allowing a visual designer to iteratively create an esthetically pleasing, accessible and enjoyable look and feel to the solution, whilst adjusting to the sponsor user feedback on their perception of both the visuals and the interactions, as well as ensuring that the business value of the buyer is achieved, and it is all technically feasible. It requires the design team to try different things, to iteration, collaborate, and validate, building on the strengths of each other all towards a common goal.
So which position do you play in this race - Cox, Stroke, Engine room or Bow?