On systems of work and design


Getting sprint estimation right is the kind of headscratcher product management twitter fusses over on the daily, but while we can’t agree on the nitty gritty we imagine the same u/dystopia. Behind one door, deadlines* evaporate in favor of inspired predictions based on sane systems of work established organically by solid [design] principles and a light hand. Behind the other, a developer mill.

Both are modular agile blooms optimized for their hosts. A symbiotic relationship of system and culture. One welcomes the operational data like an omen, looking for signs of a flood so that it can move to higher ground; the other utters bullshit like “the sprint estimate is a contract.”

As a community we focus so intently on systematizing the craft both to adapt to the growing pains of scale and — I think — to legitimize our next rung on the career ladder — design systems, design ops, research ops, service blueprints, etc. — that we must strain to remember that systems, like algorithms, embody the biases of their creators.

The system is a tool. You wouldn’t fawn so over a hammer.

Craft virtuously.

*| When I ported Stoic Designer from MailChimp, the migration missed a few of the early-birds, like “The Deadline is Arbitrary.” I 👏 have 👏 feelings 👏 about 👏 deadlines. Anyway, I’ll copy it over soon with a touch-up and audio version.

Liking (❤) this issue of Stoic Designer is a super way to brighten my day. It helps signal to the great algorithms in the sky that this writeup is worth a few minutes of your day.

Stoic Designer is also now a podcast. You should be able to find it on your podcatcher of choice in the next day or two.

Remember that design is not art, but a practice.

Michael Schofield