Operationalizing Empathy

Everywhere we look in the digital economy we find ever-increasing complexity. Our systems and organizations are becoming more interconnected, while at the same time changing more continuously. How do we keep these systems from from flying apart into disembodied pieces? How do we balance agility and autonomy with the need for customer-centered coherency, quality, and value?

Whether it be design systems, change management, or compliance and security, traditional approaches to maintaining consistency break down in the face of complex systems. Forward-thinking companies are tackling this challenge with new methodologies like DevOps, DesignOps, microservices, and cross-functional product teams. While these strategies can enhance speed and responsiveness, they also risk generating new kinds of silos, blockages, and breakdowns.

This talk will present a new model of control that joins together the power and insights of Design Thinking and DevOps. It will introduce the concept of “operationalizing empathy”, which lets organizations across the design-operations spectrum create agile governance processes that scale without becoming brittle, slow, or invasive. The talk will describe a set of principles and practices teams can use to continuously align themselves with each other and their customers. It will discuss:

  • New ways of thinking and designing needed to manage complex systems
  • Strategies for successfully scaling agile practices and cross-functional collaboration
  • Techniques for simultaneously optimizing speed and coherency



Jeff Sussna


Jeff Sussna is an internationally recognized digital transformation coach and design thinking practitioner. He specializes in helping digital businesses find creative, practical solutions to complex technical and organizational challenges. His career spans thirty years of building systems and leading organizations across the entire product development and operations spectrum. Through Ingineering.IT, his Minneapolis-based consulting practice, he provides coaching and workshops for leading companies such as United HealthCare, CenturyLink, Thomson Reuters, Best Buy, Cisco, and Allianz.

Jeff is a highly respected teacher, writer, and speaker on the intersection of Agile, DevOps, and Design Thinking. His keynote talks and workshops are in high demand at design and IT conferences throughout the U.S. and Europe. He is especially known for introducing the global DevOps community to the importance of empathy, and is the author of Designing Delivery: Rethinking IT In the Digital Service Economy.