Identifying Core Elements of Making Meaningful Work
We would like to learn about you, your projects, your roles, and the problems you face to help us identify and clarify more of the core elements that make meaningful work. Please share your stories in the comments.
Some core elements of making meaningful work include the following:
- Reflection on yourself and the people you work with
- Curiosity to help you gain other perspectives and see the benefits of anticipating and looking forward
- Listening to make sense of project stories and understand the people around you—including listening to yourself and the team members and partners you work with—and making sense of the contexts for which you design
- Sensemaking to gain clarity on the overall narrative and encourage focus, intention, and continuous learning
- Connecting the dots using data from multiple sources to help define and connect feedback loops
Roles in Making Meaningful Work
The good energies a team brings to a new project can quickly get derailed if people do not have a clear understanding of why they’re working on something.
It is important for everyone on a team—independent of their discipline—to have a clear idea of a product’s or service’s core features and its reason for being. But it’s also important to ground your understanding of any project in a program of work. This better clarifies where a product or service fits into an overall experience and how it will could enhance users’ experience with other products and services over time.
Looking beyond people’s official job titles and the tasks that are an inherent part of those jobs, understanding people’s actual roles on a project can help you think about that project in integrated and holistic ways.
When we speak about roles, we’re not referring to job titles such as Project Manager, Developer, or UX Designer. Rather, we’re thinking about the different roles teammates might play at various points on a project. Certain roles help everyone to do their job well and enable the team to deliver on making meaningful experiences. If you do not put these roles in place, frictions may result, creating difficult work environments and making it unpleasant to go to work.
We have identified four roles that help make meaningful experiences—for both your team and your customers—and encourage integrated ways of working, as follows:
- Facilitators—People in this role define approaches that guide the process of informing, sensemaking, and evaluating. They craft agendas for working sessions and identify what problems need attention. Facilitators also manage interactions between functions, aggregate a team’s learnings, and map learnings to shared artifacts. They identify themes that require further study and set goals for the team’s next working sessions.
- Mentors—People who are mentors need to be aware of approaches and skills that require ongoing development and practice. They organize safe spaces in which people can practice, employing helpful approaches over and over during working sessions and across projects. Mentors should work closely with facilitators and custodians to identify the knowledge the team has captured and map it to a learning program for all team members Their focus is on informing, sensemaking, and evaluating learnings.
- Connectors—Team members who play this role create artifacts that help bridge gaps between people and make interactions between them feel more fluid. They connect everyone’s skills and roles.
- Custodians—People in this role maintain the knowledge base that forms over time and leverage this knowledge in creating methods and courses that help project teammates get better at what they do.
Improving the Bus Journey
In Part 1 of this series, we told a hypothetical story about a challenging bus journey, then shared our reflections on the causes of its painpoints, as well as some things to think about in addressing the problems. Now, as we reflect on our manifesto and the opportunities it presents for sparkle, let’s again consider that story about a bus journey and how we could remedy its problems.
- What if the bus driver were given permission and incentives to provide the passenger’s feedback to the mobile app team, bridging the gap that created the disconnect?
- What if the bus driver took the passenger’s name and email address and ensured the feedback got the appropriate attention, making the passenger feel heard?
- What if the map of the bus journey were improved to display the information passengers need to determine whether their stop is included on a specific bus route?
We all need to create safe spaces in which trust can blossom, self-improvements get recognized, connections get made between interactions and conversations that matter, continuous learning occurs, and teams employ the core elements and practices of making meaningful work. When all of these conditions exist in a workplace, teams have a better chance of making meaningful work together.
It’s taken us about five years to hone our focus on making meaningful work and understand the whys behind meaningful work by talking with and learning from people, participating in practice discussions, writing, presenting, and designing the future of business. In 2017, we’ll continue our user research by reaching out to you to help us understand your project stories.
Project stories are our unit of analysis for better understanding the frustrations—such as sleepwalking—and opportunities to sparkle that you encounter in your work today. Our goal to define an integrated practice for making meaningful work that provides a framework for our user research.
Note to the Reader—Since our framework has arisen from continuous learning, please let us know your thoughts on how to improve it.
Acknowledgments—Making meaningful work is a challenging topic, and there have been many questions to answer, so thanks to the many people with whom we have enjoyed conversations and who have offered practical advice and direction over the years. You have all helped us to arrive at our Manifesto for Making Meaningful Work. Special thanks to Bas Raijmakers, Geke van Dijk, Michael Davis-Burchat, Andrew Mayfield, Jen Fabrizi, Louis Rawlins, Davide Casali, Kim Lenox, Matt Wallens, Matthew Oliphant, Steve Portigal, John Philpin, Michael Lai, and UXmatters for being continuous contributors to our effort, as we all make meaningful work together.
Join the Make Meaningful Work Conversation in 2017—You are welcome to follow updates and join discussions on our Manifesto for Making Meaningful Work:
San Francisco Event: Designing Projects to Make Meaningful Work, March 29, 2017—How can we create routines that contribute to our intention of wellness for people, work, projects, communities, and economies in an enlightened future society? Dan Szuc will present and lead a discussion on ways in which we can make meaningful work, helping our projects move from being stuck—what he calls Sleepwalking—to flow and achieving Sparkle.
About Sparkle School—We’d like to announce Sparkle School, a space in which we identify people in the audience who are often silent. We invite them to come forward and choose a topic from a wide selection of themes, then help facilitate and connect conversations on that topic. These experiences help us to discover how we can all make meaningful work. We are hoping Sparkle School will give more people opportunities to share, contribute, and help all of us practice the skills we need to make our work more meaningful. We are piloting Sparkle School in Hong Kong in 2017 and will let you know what we learn.
UX Hong Kong 2017—Dan and Jo founded UX Hong Kong in 2011. It is an annual event that fosters and promotes User Experience and related disciplines such as design, product management, and business leadership and strategy within our community. We’re now planning and curating the program for the 7th UX Hong Kong, which will take place on February 24 and 25, in 2017. UX Hong Kong attendees come from all over the world.