Pillars, objectives, and OGSMs

TL;DR: In this article of our Design Team Strategy series, we explore how to define the most critical topics of a design team’s strategy by brainstorming current and future objectives, clustering them into overarching themes, prioritizing them, and formulating corresponding OGSMs. By following these steps, you create the pillars of your team’s Strategy House, which will guide your decision-making process and ensure that you’re staying true to your overall strategy.

This is the second in a series of articles dealing with the development of a comprehensive strategy for a design team:

  1. The strategy house: how to define a design team’s mission
  2. Pillars, objectives, and OGSMs: how to define a design team’s most important topics

In the first article of the series, we explored the Strategy House model (StratNavApp, n.d.) and how to develop a team mission statement, which forms the house’s roof. The mission statement serves as a general guide for the team, outlining its overall purpose within the organization. Now, in this second article, we will move on to the pillars of the Strategy House. These pillars represent the most important, overarching themes of the strategy that the team will focus on to achieve its mission, and are made up of the team’s most critical objectives (or topics).

A schematic depiction of the “Strategy House Model.” The team values are the foundation. Above those, we have four pillars representing overarching teams. Within each pillar, there are the theme-specific objectives (which can be formulated as OGSMs). The pillars hold the roof of the house, which contains the team’s mission.
Today, we focus on the middle part of the Strategy House: The pillars, or main themes, that contain the team’s most crucial objectives, or topics.

The goal of this article is to provide a step-by-step guide for defining the most critical topics of a design team strategy, including how to cluster them into overarching themes, prioritize them, and formulate them into actionable objectives using OGSMs. This process is critical for creating a cohesive strategy that aligns with the team’s overall mission. By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear understanding of how to create pillars that will help your design team achieve its mission by focusing on the most important topics. Let’s dive in!

The first step in defining the team’s most important topics is—as so often—to brainstorm. To do this, we began with a blank whiteboard and simply started jotting down any high-level topics that we believed were relevant to our design team. The topics varied widely, from operational objectives like growing the team, to DesignOps-oriented objectives like defining design workflows or moving from Sketch to Figma.

It’s important to distinguish between current topics and future topics here. While current topics are (hopefully) relatively easy to brainstorm, future topics require more thought and creativity. Nevertheless, it’s essential to consider both to ensure the strategy can adapt as the team evolves.

Once we believed we had identified all the relevant topics, we needed to consolidate duplicates, remove those that were much too low- or much too high-level, and cluster the remaining ones into overarching themes. To do this, we used open card sorting (Usability.gov, 2013). This allowed us to group topics that had a common theme and find appropriate names for each cluster.

For instance, we clustered topics like “Design System,” “Move from Sketch to Figma,” and “Define and establish workflows” into a cluster called “DesignOps.” Each cluster became an overarching theme (i.e., a pillar) for the design team strategy, with the topics within each cluster forming the objectives comprising that pillar of the Strategy House.

Next—since objectives are only semi-useful if you don’t know which ones to start with—we needed to prioritize them to ensure we focused on the most important and impactful ones first. For this, we used a very traditional impact/urgency matrix (Mathenge, 2020) to categorize objectives together based on their level of urgency and the potential impact they will have on the team and the company.

It’s important to note that a prioritization process is subjective, and different team members may have different opinions on the level of urgency and impact for each objective. That’s why it’s necessary to use a collaborative approach to ensure that everyone’s input is taken into account. Hence, after we had plotted all objectives on the matrix, we additionally gave each team member one “urgency” (🔥) and one “impact” (⭐️) wild card to distribute. This allowed everyone to highlight the topics they felt were most urgent or impactful.

An impact/urgency prioritization matrix, with impact on the x- and urgency on the y-axis. Post-its are scattered across the four quadrants of the matrix, some of them marked with fire (“urgency”) and star (“impact”) emojis that act as wild cards. The top-right quadrant is labeled “This first,” the middle quadrants are labeled “Then this,” and the bottom-left quadrant is labeled “Then this.”
An impact/urgency prioritization matrix.

With our objectives prioritized, using the Ambient Workshop™ format, we then formulated OGSMs (Chaffey, 2021) for each previously identified objective, starting with the ones that had high urgency and high impact. OGSMs are a strategic planning framework that stands for Objectives, Goals, Strategies, and Measures. They provide a clear roadmap for how to achieve the team’s objectives, with specific, measurable targets and a plan for how to achieve them.

OGSMs differ from OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) in that they are more comprehensive, including not just the objectives and key results but also the strategies and measures required to achieve them. While OGSMs are more detailed and require more upfront planning, they are well-suited for longer-term strategic planning, whereas OKRs are more flexible and can be used for shorter-term planning and execution (Medvedieva, n.d.). Ultimately, however, the choice between OGSMs and OKRs depends on the specific needs and goals of the team.

A turquoise post-it titled “Figma Move,” with 4 parts: Objective (“Move all Sketch Files to Figma”), Goals (e.g., “Consolidate all design activity in a single tool”), Strategy (e.g., “Move all components and features from Sketch to Figma”), and Measures (e.g., “Number of components and features moved to Figma”).
Example OGSMs for the objective “Figma Move.”

In conclusion, by following the four steps above, we were able to define the most important topics for our design team strategy, which allowed us to create the pillars of our Strategy House, comprised of objectives and corresponding OGSMs. These elements form the basis of our team’s strategic planning and guide our decision-making process. We review the OGSMs at least quarterly to track our progress, and to ensure that we’re staying true to our overall strategy and adapting to the evolving needs of our team and the business.

Stay tuned for our next articles in this series, where we will share our process for developing values (the foundation of the Strategy House), design principles, and finally, a vision for our team.

Categorized as UX

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