Optimizing DesignOps for Business Impact and Team Success

We invited Adeleye Lufadeju, UX DesignOps, business partner at The Robot Agency Inc., to understand “The role of DesignOps and how can it improve the design process? ”


Adeleye Lufadeju

Who did we interview?

Adeleye Lufadeju is a UX DesignOps professional at SLB and a business partner at The Robot Agency Inc. With over 20 years of experience in design, he has successfully led teams in both large organizations and agencies. Adeleye offers a unique perspective on what constitutes a good and inspirational leader. He is deeply passionate about the individuals under his care, committed to their career growth, and driven by a mission to see them succeed at every level.

We would love to know your thoughts.

  • Ques 1 : What is the definition of DesignOps for you? And how can it improve the design process?

    Ans : DesignOps is supposed to maximize the effectiveness of the design org, we help orchestrate design activities and tie it back to the business impact. Jettison the excess of different types of work that have provided little to no value and understanding where the focus is needed. Half the time we are doing discovery activities to better understand what's happening with our teams and our business impact throughout the organization and vise-versa.

    One must be very comfortable to live in a world of ambiguity half the year, and you’ll still have a responsibility as a leader and goals to meet and the ability to say 'NO' when needed on your team's behalf. It can't be stated enough that to further improve the design process we in the DesignOps role must help foster a culture of prioritization when working on things that help users and the business. As Ops people we go even further to ensure the success of our design teams and their peace of mind often being their silent yet vocal champions.

  • Ques 2 : Many organizations are turning to the DesignOps approach, which gives design professionals more of a strategic role. Your thoughts?

    Ans : My general perspective and a lot of smart people I’ve had the honor of being around, DesignOps still feels like an emerging role. My designer background has helped me tremendously since I have lived through the pain points many under my care are facing. Freelancing and bidding for jobs has also given me an advantage in navigating the business side of Operations. To take on such a role effectively one must truly want to seek leadership and step into it confidently. This can be hard for most designers to want to do, so taking on full ownership on the people and business side of things can be scary for most.

  • Ques 3 : How does an organization realistically launch a DesignOps practice? Why DesignOps Matters Now?

    Ans : Slow and steady. Lead with empathy and build a diverse team. A diverse team with different backgrounds and experiences is often overlooked. Our teams are global and we must bring global perspectives.

  • Ques 4 : How would define the role of DesignOps and why it is important?

    Ans : Having a service leadership mindset. There was a recent post I read that had an excerpt from the book "Trust-Based Leadership: Marine Corps Leadership Concepts for Today's Business Leaders" - by Mike Ettore. In it Mike Ettore mentioned "You LEAD PEOPLE and you MANAGE THINGS". This is such a prescient quote. I still consider myself as an emerging leader in this space of DesignOps because I always want to keep my internal gear in learning mode in a broad sense. I do my best to live by this approach. The learning never ends. Always be a student and of service to people first.

  • Ques 5 : What is your process of working on your designs?

    Ans : Collaborate with researchers. I was lucky enough to have worked with some great UX researchers who knew how to spend time unraveling insights and connecting themes that support a user-centered design approach. Design can already be chaotic even with the best Scrum, Agile and Double Diamond processes in mind. Without a good foundation in research, things can get quite messy for the team adding more anguish and messiness sooner or later. Getting to the next phase of ideas is the fun part. Get all the bad ideas out of our system and allow the team to share openly amongst each other to then discard what may fail our users. Filter out the good from the bad and iterate on those ideas with great potential. Start to make those connections that lead into other activities for a better bird eye view of what we are building for the user. Journey mapping, wireframe, prototyping, and tying things back to the business all the while never dismissing the user. The more time and effort put into this phase to truly understand the problem(s) we are trying to solve, the better.

  • Ques 6 : What do you do to find your flow state? Your rhythm?

    Ans : Music and Time Boxing. I would chunk out hours at a time to do deep focus work and match that with what my energy and mood is for the style of music.

  • Ques 7 : How do you balance imagination and intellect in your work?

    Ans : By embracing either as they come to me in waves. Some people are better at splitting the two but others like myself have found more success when we roll with either as they come. My mood throughout the day can also affect whether I’m in focus mode (intellect), or escapist mode (imagination). Having the space to take breaks often helps manage a chaotic mind.

  • Ques 8 : How much value does feedback hold for you?

    Ans : A ton. We should all seek constructive feedback whether in our personal or professional lives. Being able to also self-reflect is part of my feedback loop. A person's inner voice should be part of this feedback mechanism as well as seeking those who are helpful collaborators. With a high emphasis on helpfulness of course.

  • Ques 9 : What are your sources of inspiration in the outer world (not online)?

    Ans : Watching my kids grow at lightning speed. As a parent, we do right by them by not shielding them from making mistakes, experimenting, and breaking things. How they navigate the world is widely different than how I grew up. They’ve helped me become a better storyteller with them in mind as they replay stories I’ve told them of my upbringing and how they relate that to their lived experiences.

  • Ques 10 : What do you see as the future of design in your field? What's going to come up?

    Ans : We are currently caught up in this euphoric buzz and hyper-focus on AI and tooling. Which leads to UX designers losing sight of their users or just improving on our core basics. I see the most successful designers doubling down on the foundational aspects of UX and exercising their heuristics and critical thinking muscles. Becoming better critical thinkers and knowing when AI or other forms of tooling may benefit our everyday work processes is great. We must be cognizant of how we avoid sacrificing the quality and integrity of the work we deliver to our users when the world is getting swept up in the next big thing.

  • Ques 11 : Any DesignOps Case Study you would like to share?

    Ans : I worked with my then UX Manager Sarah Giles and Sr Lead UX designer Liam Prescott on establishing a UX Design Career-Leveling Framework. Our approach and intent functioned beyond a simple level guide. We worked hard on bringing clarity to each individual's role in comparison to others in the group and how they may all work cross-functionally beyond our UX department. I’m proud of the work we had done up to that point. To anyone outside looking in, they may see the Framework we produced as done but I do have larger ambitions to extend its longevity and deeper function.

  • Ques 12 : What inspires you?

    Ans : If I had to pick one it would be seeing the growth of UX in leadership roles. What I also see as inspiring is the UX community recognizing that there's a lot of work needed in elevating the right individuals in these roles. Having experienced working with some great leaders and teams, there are even far more unqualified and poor leadership that's prevalent. I’ve taken it upon myself to be a part of the solution. I also advocate for a well-deserving cast of new leaders that are people-centric in having empathy as a core element of who they are as individuals.

  • Ques 13 : What advice do you have for the design community?

    Ans : I try not to repeat what many others have shared prior but I will share this topic that has become more clear to me. As a community, we need to be better at allowing room for healthy and constructive debate. UXers should be right up there in knowing how to give and receive constructive feedback, especially in a public forum such as social media.

    My message to up-and-comers is to take full advantage of connecting with those experienced in this space. But also seek learning opportunities and engage as often as you can with the UX community. One big BUT is to managing our knowledge sources on a regular basis which serve no value in self-development. Filter out individuals that have an affinity of UX misinformation and miseducation, in particular when it comes to AI usage. Challenge your automatic assumptions on topics you were once locked into. I’ll repeat what I said earlier, always be a student and of service to others.

Aman Benipal

Senior Consultant

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