Operational Efficiencies

The 2021 goals for the DesignOps discipline centered around four horizontal programs. Yet, as a personal goal to show the value of DesignOps, I did a lot around our operational efficiencies. Here are some of the highlights.


Much of the onboarding process is about the experiences people have – not just the new teammates, but also the people supporting their onboarding effort. We wanted everyone to have a good experience and not feel like this was a heavy lift.

The playbook idea came from Dianne Que’s presentation, “Real Talk: Proving Value through a Scrappy Playbook” from DesignsOps Summit 2019. For our team, playbooks are a great way to inform without seeming too formal and intimidating. I created them in Miro, so I could lay pages out in a way that was easy to scan. 

In 2021 and mostly on my own, I created 16 playbooks covering a broad range of topics, including:

  • Setting career goals and giving feedback at Citrix
  • Design system governance
  • Designing for accessibility
  • Designing for localization
  • Story pointing for designers
  • Running the Innovation & Planning sprint
  • The Figma 101 starter kit
  • Accessibility and localization coaches’ guides
Screenshot of a playbook in Miro
Screenshot of a playbook in Miro

Impact of the playbooks

I consistently receive feedback on how helpful and engaging the playbooks are. They allow the team to feel confident with our best practices and org processes. If they have a question or comment, they can post it directly on the Miro board. New hires loved having this much information at their fingertips.

Tooling operations

For tools, I developed a process for sunsetting tools and archiving our artifacts. While there was excitement to adopt Figma, a few teammates were hesitant. I realized it was because of the learning curve and finding the time to learn something new.

With the help of designers, we curated how-to content into a playbook. This included links to articles, tutorials, and videos. There’s so much information out there that it can be overwhelming. Curating information allowed designers to focus on learning and practicing instead of searching.

Impact of tooling operations

We now have a process in place for sunsetting tools. When possible, I advocate for hiring a contractor. This relieves designers from tedious work and it’s a cost-effective solution. (One contractor is much cheaper than having a team of seasoned designers doing the work!) Any time we have a new tool, we provide resources to reduce the learning curve.

Screenshot of the Figma 101 Playbook
Our Figma 101 Playbook (Figjam)


Improving team communications

Our employee survey revealed that communication wasn’t clear enough on our team. There were many facets in play, but one was communication was messy.  We organically formed patterns and habits on how we communicated. But it wasn’t consistent across the org or from person to person. People were missing important messages.

Another designer and I hosted a communications tool workshop. From that, we got a sense of the successes and pain points with the tools we had. Our findings showed that people:

  • Didn’t know which tool to use when (for example, “Should I use Slack or Teams?”) 
  • Were distracted by the noise these tools generated
  • Were stressed because they couldn’t find important information

To make things better, we did a few things. She and another teammate created a decision tree on when to use which tool. We also created cheat sheets for how to get the most of each tool. We included protips to reduce noise and feel more in control of the tool. Lastly, we audited channels to create naming conventions and best practices. While this was adding some guidelines, the team welcomed them.

Sample communication cheat sheet
Sample communication cheat sheet. Memes made everything more fun.

Impact of the improvements

These adjustments streamlined communications within our org. Teammates know where to go, how to find things, and have better habits around using these tools. We all feel relieved and a little less stressed.

Story pointing for designers

I created a method and guidelines for how designers can story point their work. Designers use this to break down their design activities and articulate their workload. When planning work, we have a shared sense of time and capacity, so we can negotiate as needed. 

Impact of story pointing

I love that this effort empowers designers to articulate how they’d like to design solutions. It’s been 1.5 years and things are still working well. As we evolved, I’ve created some more tools. For example, I created a canvas to account for common “gotchas” that can affect pointing and timing. 

I have a full case study of the first six months of this effort on my site.

A few screens from the story pointing playbook
A few screens from the story pointing playbook