The Team Pulse Design Process is well suited to small to medium sized groups. It’s structure allows people that share a common vision, but perhaps have vastly different strengths, weaknesses, skill sets and biases, to function as a cohesive unit in achieving the end goal of the design process.

The Team Pulse Design Process emerged by necessity and pulls from many excellent group work and decision making methods.  This post contains working descriptions of these processes and methods, along with links to go deeper into learning about them. Ultimately the Team Pulse Design Process is a simple framework built from common sense organizational principles. This simple framework can be fleshed out with a myriad of other design strategies, methods, processes and perspectives. It’s greatest strength lies in designing the design process before the design process begins. Putting in the time up front to design the design process saves countless headaches, hurt feelings and wasted hours – and greatly increases the chances of not only coming up with a stellar design, but seeing it implemented and inhabited in a way that will pass the 7th Generation Design Test.

The Team Pulse design process is based upon a pulse pattern – expansion and contraction. Each pulse has two parts – a group part and an individual/small group part. Each of the two parts has several distinct steps that, when followed deliberately and repetitively, serve to ensure that each individual’s efforts are being effectively applied toward the larger goal of the design process.

Each individual pulse has its own unique goal and purpose.  The goal and purpose of each pulse is decided by the team members collectively by following the steps within each pulse. In this way the Team Pulse Design Process is self informing and constantly accepting feedback to steer towards a successful conclusion.

Click on the image below to enlarge it – note the two distinct inhale and exhale phases of the pulse and the individual steps within each inhale and exhale.







Each pulse of the design process is divided into two halves and has at least 9 steps. Completing these steps (even, and especially, if they seem redundant) will help the design process inform itself accurately and keep it on track towards a successful product.

First, the two halves of each pulse. One is the “inhale” half,  the other is the “exhale”. Just like our breathing, there can’t be one without the other and they must alternate with one another.

  • INHALE: With goals and purpose set the group is ready to take in ideas for action, set priorities, delegate responsibilities, create personal action plans, and research and concentrate appropriate new information. Just like you’d take a deep breath before diving.
  • EXHALE: With new information accumulated the group is ready to sort, validate, integrate, and metabolize it to inform the next step of the design process, re-affirming the need for the work, the principles that guide it, and the purpose of this most recent developmental pulse. The design is nourished by the new information (the “oxygen”) and reorganized as it is incorporated (getting rid of the “CO2”).

The inhale/exhale dynamic to the design process can help to inform the attitudes and emotions of the team members throughout each individual pulse.

The 9 steps within each design pulse, while present in linear order here for clarity’s sake, are ultimately cyclical when used in the Team Pulse Design Process. Note that the linear list spans two different inhale/exhale events.

  1. Review the need and principles at the beginning of the group session. See The Chaordic Stepping Stones for help with determining the need for the project and the principles that will govern its life.
  2. Review pre-set goals and purpose for this pulse, share individual progress towards those goals.
  3. Decide goals and purpose for next pulse.
    • If decisions meet deadlock, reference decision-making principles and follow pre-agreed upon protocol.
  4. Work backwards, create an action plan. Decide what needs to be done to achieve the goals and fulfill the purpose of the next pulse. Specific, measurable action steps.
    • If decisions meet deadlock, reference decision-making principles and follow pre-agreed upon protocol.
  5. Determine relative priorities of various steps in the action plan. Delegate responsibility for individual action steps.
  6. Create personal action plans such that each team member knows exactly what they are responsible for doing during the next pulse and who they need to work with.
    • If it involves collaboration with another team member(s) know explicitly who is responsible for what pieces.
    • Ask “What do you need from me in order to be successful?” – know the answer before you begin the work!
  7. Set a deadline for the next pulse meeting.
  8. Do the individual and/or small group work necessary to complete personal action plan. Begin with the highest priority task first.
  9. Organize your work for presentation to the group such that it will help achieve the goals and fulfill the purpose of that pulse.

To download a copy of this diagram with labels and explanations, click this link Team Pulse Design Process.pdf

Next, learn how to overlay design frameworks on top of the Team Pulse Design Process.


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