Over the course of the past year, I have presented several times on designing for better outcomes using a simple tool called Consequence Scanning. From the feedback I’ve received, most people have never even heard of Consequence Scanning; however, it’s become clear that some recognize it by other names or have at least used something similar in their work.
As Salesforce MVP, Stacey Whitaker, so eloquently observed: “You’ll never look at anything the same way ever again”. Designing for a human-centered future nourishes connections, builds community, and lessens the day-to-day frictions of technology.
How about something so powerful that it completely changes your outlook? The real power of Consequence Scanning comes from diversity, inclusion, and collaboration. So, let’s take a closer look at this tool, which can channel resources in a constructive way to create alignment and actionable improvements.
What Is Consequence Scanning?
Consequence Scanning is relatively simple and does not require a great deal of preparation or time. It’s critical to have representatives of as many different types of stakeholders in the room as possible, while limiting the group to a manageable number for actual conversation and collaboration to take place.
Different types of stakeholders mean different perspectives, from end users, admins, developers and marketers, to the guy who writes the check to pay for it all! If you have 10-20 people, try randomly dividing the stakeholders into smaller groups. Consequence Scanning can be done equally well either virtually or in person. Not only does it help you design for better outcomes, but it also builds ethical muscle memory as well.
Once you’ve assembled your stakeholders, the goals of Consequence Scanning are forthright. Outline your idea, design, or proposal, and then consider the following questions:
- What are the intended and unintended consequences of this product or feature?
- What are the positive consequences we want to focus on?
- What are the consequences we want to mitigate?
Spend some time letting participants warm up to the idea of discussing consequences. Remember, you are the facilitator. You don’t have answers – you only have questions. If you are doing this in person, make sure everyone has a pen and a stack of sticky notes. If virtual, use a Jamboard or a Miro board with sticky notes. Now, let them go wild with their ideas! Set a timer to keep everyone on track but don’t shut down a great conversation that is making progress.
Once participants have written down the consequences they discussed, they need to put them in the appropriate square of the Consequence Map – see example below:
Some consequences may appear in more than one square. Each group needs to decide where they think their consequence belongs. Once you have reached some alignment on the Consequence Map, you can begin the final process to create action items.
Each negative consequence generated needs to be put into one of three columns:
Act Influence Monitor Immediate ideas and actions for us. Not in our direct control, but we want to change or inﬂuence the outcome. Out of our control,
but we want to understand better and explore further.
Again, let your participants move the consequence sticky notes into the appropriate columns. Set a timer to allow for a reasonable amount of discussion, but keep folks on task. Once all the sticky notes have been appropriately identified, your next steps are practically done for you.
Whew! We’re done, right? Not exactly. Best practices encourage you to re-engage stakeholders in a similar exercise in these three specific situations:
- When conceptualizing the idea: Before people are attached and it’s hard to change.
- During roadmap planning: To ensure you’re still delivering your intent.
- During sprints and iterations: When new features are introduced to uncover potential consequences.
As my bridge builder father always said, “It’s much better to measure twice and cut once.” Set aside the time throughout the discovery, definition, and development phases to do a quick consequence scan – you won’t regret it. It might save you immense amounts of reworking, reconfiguring, and redesigning in the future.
The Salesforce Design team has created an entire toolkit for you to use. It provides great resources on stakeholder mapping, consequence scanning, and designing effective analytics, as well as a UX critique guide. Take a look at the Relationship Design Toolkit, and let me know what you think!