How to Change Design Reviews from Tedious to Awesome

We’ve all been ‘there.’ Watching the ‘mechanical’ design team lead go through 378 PowerPoint slides of suffocating technical content, pixelated iPhone pictures of bearing housings, and lists of ‘open’ items in fonts that are too small. There are ‘senior’ engineers wheeled in to ‘review’ but instead nod knowingly and ask sporadic questions about something they once designed ‘back in the day.’ And the chairperson nervously/condescendingly asks our ‘mechanical’ design team lead if they are ‘on track.’ Over and over.

Then comes the ‘electrical’ design team lead. And so on.

It doesn’t have to be this way. But it will always happen if we lose sight of what design reviews are supposed to be. When we do design reviews because the contract says so, or another procedural deity decrees it, then (by definition) our primary motivation is not to improve the design. It is to show we are ‘on track,’ to update our ‘issues of concern’ or something else that feels like progress but is instead admiring problems.