What really powers a high-performing team? The ‘Make a Difference’​ Moments’​

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to work on a really exciting application for a one of the UK’s largest supermarkets. The premise was simple: put valuable store analytics and ‘actionable’ insight into the hands of the people who actually work in the stores. At the time most of the data was in weekly or monthly ‘static’ reports, it was our job to make the key information accessible and easy to use.

I was part of a relatively small delivery team and the business sponsors were ambitious; this was to be something that would not only change the way people in store worked but also demonstrate how innovation could happen in (what was then) a more traditional IT business set-up.

It was evident just a few days in that we all had an energy and passion for the project. We very quickly felt like a tight-knit team who had each other’s backs with a strong desire to power through the messy, difficult stuff at the beginning to make a breakthrough.

But I think there is something else other than the a shared outlook and understanding of goals allied to the usual blend of excellence in engineering, design, stakeholder management and processes. What really fuelled that passion and helped us to sustain it through the challenging times was what I like to call the ‘Make A Difference Moments’. They are simple, sometimes subtle but very important, and in this project they happened like this:

During early discovery sessions the Product Owner said:

“Look, this is currently a major pain for them, but if they had something like this it would be a ‘game changer’ as it would be so much easier for them to do their job”

During some in-store testing Product Users said to us (with prototype in hand):

“We’ve been waiting for something like this for so long, when can we have it?!”

Fundamentally they provide a simple answer to the question: “What are we doing this for?”, but for me as a Designer they are a powerful reminder of why I got into design in the first place: to improve what is currently there and make a difference.

At its heart is a motivation informed by an understanding of the needs of users and the outcomes that will (yes) change their lives in some way. These ‘Make A Difference Moments’ are incredibly valuable for igniting and sustaining enthusiasm and passion for any project.

Thinking and doing like a Designer