Grand Rapids summit

June 13-14, 2015
"What does it mean to be a Balanced Team?"

Balanced Teams Everywhere

Balance is action guided by incremental adjustments, rather than an achieved state. At the 2015 Balanced Team Summit, we will explore and share the latest techniques and innovations of Balanced Teams in different sized organizations in the software industry and beyond. Throughout it all, we'll be considering the question, "What does it mean to be a balanced team?"

About Balanced Teams

The Balanced Team

Balanced Team is a global movement of people who value multi-disciplinary collaboration and iterative delivery focused on customer value as a source for innovation. We’re a self-organizing group that learns from each other as we explore processes and methodologies to do good work with happy teams.
We welcome people from many disciplines -- design, development, testing, product management, marketing and sales, to name a few. If you’re interested in product development, lean startup, agile UX, devops, and anything else that values multi-disciplinary collaboration and iterative delivery of value. We hope you will join the conversation!

2015 Summit Organizing Committee

Matt Fletcher
Atomic Object

Lane Halley
Digital Product Designer

Rick Harlow

Brittany Hunter
Atomic Object

Gail Swanson
UX Designer & Consultant

To contact the conference committee, find us on the Balanced Team mailing list.


Mary Brown

Business Designer & Consultant @UsingWhiteSpace

Jon Carfagno

Grand Rapids Art Museum @jcarfagno25

Skot Carruth

Philosophie @skotcarruth

Michael Colletto

Mighty in the Midwest @michaelcolletto
Presentation Abstract

The Balanced Organization

How can organizations of today transition into tomorrow? How can organizations look at these changes in order to be more agile? During the session we will look at change management and organizational dynamics through a value framework perspective along with four types of change and the dimensions within which they operate.

Business Designer, Organizational Development Consultant, and Futurist, Mary J. Brown has consulted and trained in the business, nonprofits, and educational sectors. Using tools from organizational development, design thinking models and Futuring, she helps organizations to apply future­ oriented thinking to present day challenges. Beyond organizational development consulting, Mary Brown is the Visionary / Solution Executive position at Spectrum Health/Priority Health where she engages stakeholders in using design thinking methodologies to actualize new service innovations in mobile technologies. She also serves as adjunct professor at Grand Rapids Community College in both the Psychology and Business departments and is a doctoral student at Pepperdine University in the School of Psychology and Education.

Presentation Abstract

3 Ways Balanced Team Can Transform Art Museums for the 21st Century

Discover how multidisciplinary collaboration can help museums transcend deeply engrained historical orthodoxies. Explore how museums are reimagining methods of practice to deliver higher degrees of public value in today’s evolving world. Focusing on exhibition design, curriculum development, and community partnerships, this presentation will examine how innovation methods are reshaping museums into marketplaces for ideas.

Jon Carfagno joined the Grand Rapids Art Museum in June 2009. Since joining GRAM, Carfagno has led numerous initiatives that have brought local, statewide and national recognition to the museum. Under his leadership, the museum’s Education Department was recognized with a Distinguished Service Award from the Michigan Art Education Association in October 2013. Recently, Jon was appointed to the National Board of Directors for the Museum Education Roundtable, publishers of the Journal of Museum Education. Previously, Mr. Carfagno served as the School Programs Manager at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH). There, he led professional development opportunities for K-12 educators and composed interpretive materials based on the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions. As co-author of Looking at Art at the MFAH, an art historical textbook designed to support active learning from authentic works of art, his reach expanded to comprise area university students and adult audiences pursuing art appreciation and connoisseurship. Mr. Carfagno was awarded the M.A. in art history with a distinction from the University of Massachusetts and the B.A. cum laude in art history and German from the College of the Holy Cross.

Presentation Abstract

Balancing With Clients

As a software consultancy, a primary function of our sales process is to determine whether or not to pursue a potential client project. Typically, budget, time, and technology constraints are the main factors in disqualifying prospective clients. Increasingly, we are looking at the client’s team strength and collaboration coefficient when deciding whether or not they will be good to work with.

Skot Carruth started making websites in 1995, just five years after Tim Berners-Lee founded the W3C. Skot started his first e-commerce business in 1997, and consulted for small businesses throughout high school and college. After a brief stint in the financial industry, he came back to his digital roots to co-found Philosophie in 2006. By day, Skot and his team help businesses create better software by focusing on the users and humanizing the process. By night, he enjoys teaching design and evangelizing its role in building effective companies.

Presentation Abstract

Content Strategy In Web Design & Development

Two years ago, Mighty in the Midwest, a Grand Rapids web design and development company, hired me as their full-time content strategist and copywriter. Mine was a new role on a small team that, until that time, had consisted only of designers and developers. It was a bold move and a major shift for a small company. But we did it build on our strengths and bring more balance to our team, our process, and our services. Naturally, our process had to change. I was the eighth person to join the team; since then, the team has grown to thirteen, and our process has continued to evolve. I'd like to share my experience as the lone content strategist and copywriter on a team of designers and developers and what we've learned along the way.

Following an obligatory stint as a Starbucks barista after receiving his Communications degree, Michael Colletto began his professional career as a promotional web copywriter for QVC. He was a communications strategist for global media non-profit TWR in Bratislava, Slovakia, then joined The SOLD Project in northern Thailand as communications director in the effort to prevent child exploitation. Today, Michael is the content strategist and copywriter at Mighty in the Midwest, a web design and development company in Grand Rapids. Michael and his wife have two daughters and a mustachioed cat.

Ray DeLaPena

Catalyst Group @rayraydel

Christy Ennis-Kloote

Senior UX Designer @EnnisKloote

Lane Halley

Digital Product Designer @thinknow

Rudy Jachan

CarbonFive @rudy
Presentation Abstract

Iterating personas through multimethod research

In this talk I will describe the process of creating proto-personas starting with stakeholder research and then updating them as a cross-functional team performs several types of customer research -- online survey, online shop-along via screenshare, in-store shadowing, in-lab usability testing -- on the way to a new experience strategy and several MVP concepts.

Ray is the Director of Strategy at Catalyst Group. He’s a visual thinker, strategist, and sensemaker with a passion for helping people “get it.” Ray’s education and career have included studies in architecture, a degree in philosophy from Penn State University, and more than seventeen years In research, design, and strategy. From his start in computer repair and networking, to designing products and services, to his current focus on experience strategy and service design, Ray’s driving motivation is facilitating authentic, mutually beneficial relationships and experiences for product design teams, the organizations they work for, and the customers they serve.

Workshop Abstract

Facilitating Creative Culture

How can one be the diplomatic wrangler of Extraverts to Introverts and Thinkers and Doers? I will share how to leverage differences within a team and create a healthy balance in the ambiguity we live with every day. Three of the five points will have encourage participation with a brief exercise. We'll explore five key areas that aid in facilitation and alignment of diverse teams: Skills, Ownership, Flexibility, Structure, and Vision. Attendees will come away with inspiration, tools, and practical applications intended for those building teams.

Christy Ennis-Kloote is a Senior UX Designer at Visualhero. She is an eternal optimist with a high capacity for details. Her background in Industrial Design, drives her to seek out users’ needs and answer them in the execution of the product. Ennis-Kloote uses her passion for sharing with community as a local leader for IxDA Grand Rapids and as Co-Founder of Ladies that UX Grand Rapids. Ennis-Kloote is also an Adjunct Instructor at Kendall College of Art and Design teaching concepts and methodologies of user experience design through various digital formats such as mobile phone or desktop applications.

Presentation Abstract

Balanced Craft

How can we shape our skillsets to be effective participants in Balanced Teams? Complex software projects require a wide range of skills. As an individual who seeks meaningful work, you understand the need for cross-team communication and collaboration, but the skillset is overwhelming. What do you need to know? How deeply must you know it?

Lane Halley is a digital product designer and UX coach for Agile and Lean Startup teams. She has worked with Philosophie, Carbon Five, LUXr, Hot Studio, Liquidnet, Cooper, and Electronic Arts. Lane has a broad understanding of UX practices in many settings and looks forward to sharing her knowledge with you. An active supporter of her professional community, Lane is a founding member of Balanced Team a mentor for Lean Startup Machine and Los Angeles StartupWeekend and an instructor for Girl Develop It. Recent speaking engagements include UX London, UX Week, Lean UX NYC, The Lean Startup Conference, QconSF and Agile UX NYC. Lane blogs at "The Apprentice Path" and tweets as @thinknow.

Workshop Abstract

Don't Hate the Players, Love the Game

You've got it all down. You're team is balanced. You have this great process. You're ready, baby. And then your client doesn't get it. It's a problem we've encountered many times and decided to finally tackle. So with a diverse team of designers, developers and product managers we did the obvious thing; built a game! Games have long been used as a way to speed learning and validate theory. We'll talk about: the balanced team practices such as collaborative design, prototyping, testing, and iterating that went into our games' creation,, other games and simulations in and out of our field, and most importantly, having fun along the way! After that, we'll a workshop so that participants can play the games.

Rudy’s fascination with mixing technology and entertainment began at age 10 when he mistakenly picked up the Micro-Adventure book Space Attack (he thought it was going to be about Star Wars) and learned to program in BASIC. That happy accident led him to a career in software development playing with everything from web applications to cryptology to Virtual Reality. Since 2008, he has been leading teams for agile consulting shop Carbon Five at their Santa Monica office and continues to hack together his passions of story-telling and coding into wonderful worlds for people to play in.

Rosemary King

Pivotal Labs @rozemaryking

Jeff Patton

Jeff Patton & Associates @jeffpatton

William Pietri

Consultant & Lean Expert @williampietri

Tami Reiss

Cyrus Innovation @tamireiss
Presentation Abstract

May I Present Balance Team:
Introducing Enterprise companies to Balanced Team techniques

Over the past year I've worked with a bunch of big enterprise, corporate companies who want to "do agile" development. At Pivotal we believe not in 'doing agile' but 'being agile.' Intrinsic in that philosophy are teams that have seamless communication through various disciplines. As we bring in small corporate teams to work with us on projects, the biggest eye opener for them is what happens when you break down the walls. So we as teachers have to work in our balanced teams with an eye toward teaching and demonstrating. It's got to be balanced teams x10. I'd like to talk about this process, the challenges that come with having to be our highest selves, what the corporate teams have the hardest time with, what processes we use to bring them onboard, and what happens when they leave the nest and go back to their offices.

I'm a Product Manager and User Researcher with a passion for understanding how technology can help products and services improve people's lives. I work with companies and teams to define opportunities and iterate on products that make sense to their users. In London, I host Product Office Hours, where founders and companies come in to discuss their product challenges, and what to tackle next. You'll find me at the monthly ProductTank meet-ups and #LeanCoffee events.

Presentation Abstract

Story Mapping 2015

For this balanced team audience many may be aware of the practice of Story Mapping, but it may be new to some. The biggest change for me is finally seeing stories and story mapping really bridge communication boundaries between engineers, UX people, and product people. I'll to talk about how 10 years ago this seemed like a pipe dream, but today it's becoming understood that that's the purpose of stories in software, and story mapping in particular.

Jeff Patton helps companies adopt a way of working that’s focused on building great products. Jeff blends a mixture of Agile thinking, Lean and Lean Startup Thinking, and UX Design and Design Thinking to end up with a holistic product-centric way of working. Jeff is author of the O’Reilly book User Story Mapping which describes a simple holistic approach to using stories in Agile development without losing site of the big picture. You can learn more about Jeff at: and

Presentation Abstract

Why Everybody Should Do Support

In college I was part of 764-HELP, the university's tech support number. It gave me immense empathy for regular people suffering from bad software. This talk will mix specific examples of user struggles (some funny, some serious) with ways existing teams stay connected to the actual experience of their users.

From a family of developers and entrepreneurs, I started writing code at 12. I’ve since filled many roles, but for the last 15 years I’ve alternated between leading the technical side of ambitious products and advising others on how to make systems and teams run well. To learn more about me, a good place to start is my LinkedIn profile. I comment occasionally on Twitter, and even more occasionally post to a group blog on Agile methods. I sometimes participate in various nerdy forums, including the Lean Startup Circle Balanced Team mailing lists. In the past I have been active on Wikipedia (where I was voted an administrator), Stack Overflow (4 gold badges) and Quora (Top Writer 2012 and 2013).

Presentation Abstract

Everyone Should be a Scientist

The scientific method something that we often think about as reserved for laboratories and social experiments. Over the past few years the Lean Hypothesis has made it's way into design thinking, but all members of a software development team can employ scientific techniques. If we all conducted good experiments which generate conclusive evidence, we would be able to make more data backed decisions. From product managers and designers to the engineers that build the software, there is always an opportunity to use the fundamentals of hypothesis driven testing. It's more than just the practice, there's a mindset that goes along with experimentation that helps yield great results.

Tami Reiss is the CEO at Cyrus Innovation, a boutique consulting firm that embeds talented Agile developers on clients teams to help them accomplish their goals. She was formerly a Sr. Product Manager at Pivotal Labs where she consulted with companies on employing agile and lean methodologies to turn good ideas into great products. In her free time she chairs a charity bike ride, co-organizes a Product/Design focused meetup, and is trying to visit 50 countries and all 50 states by the time she's 40.

Alexa Roman

Carbon Five @calexity

Gail Swanson

UX Designer & Consultant @practicallyUX

Desirée Sy

Agile UX Coach @DesireeSy

Sue Anna Yeh

Carbon Five @sueannayeh
Presentation Abstract

Experiment-driven Balanced Team

Presenting with Sue Anna Yeh. We will walk through how we improved the user experience and drove up conversions with experiment-driven product development on a client project. Armed with user testing, A/B testing, and multivariate testing, we built goal-oriented features to make data-driven decisions. Sue Anna will explain the technical implementation of experiments from the perspective of a developer, while Alexa will examine our ideation and design process through the lens of a designer. We’ll address some of the benefits we gained as well as some of the challenges we had to overcome. Audience members will come away with methods for planning experiments, executing experiments in code and making decisions from data.

Alexa Roman is a Product Designer at Carbon Five, a collaborative design and development firm based in San Francisco. Previously, she worked to establish lean practices with enterprise teams at Neo. Before that, she was at Kluge Interactive where she initiated digital strategies for young companies and oversaw the launch of multiple web sites. In all her work, Alexa aims to prove the value of design both quantitatively and qualitatively. Her methods employ rapid, lightweight activities to translate business metrics into actionable design. She has a passion for service design -- in particular the exchange between the tactile and the digital. Before discovering user experience design, Alexa worked in set design for television and film.

Presentation Abstract

Balanced Partnership

How do we architect a partnership between the individual, her team, and an organization to boost employee engagement and mutual benefit? In this session, we will explore a how to facilitate a shared understanding of each others needs, and a framework for leaders and workers to architect a successful relationship.

Gail Swanson is an experience designer in Chicago. She's passionate about creating experiences that help people be more productive, informed, delighted, and nice to one another. Her goal: to make sure that people are empowered by the technology they use rather than excluded and frustrated. Experience design has the potential to make a positive impact in the way that people create products and solve problems. In order to open those doors, Gail works to make experience design teams play better with others. The ultimate goal is to happily work together to create things that work for people. You can find Gail on twitter @practicallyUX or at

Presentation Abstract

Transatlantic collaboration (taking the plunge)

I am going to share a case study of consulting as an agile UX coach and interaction designer with a startup whose team members are split between Toronto, Canada and London, England. The talk will be focused on work strategies and collaboration tools.

Desirée Sy is a user experience consultant and agile UX coach. She's crafted useful and enjoyable user experiences for over 20 years. She was thrown into the deep end of the agile UX pool in 2002, while at Alias (now Autodesk), and found the water very comfortable. She's presented, taught, and written about adapting rapid formative usability testing and qualitative research for agile at UXPA, CHI, Agile, Balanced Team, and Agile Roots, most notably in the May 2007 issue of the Journal of Usability Studies ( Find her on Twitter as @desireesy.

Presentation Abstract

Experiment-driven Balanced Team

Presenting with Alexa Roman. We will walk through how we improved the user experience and drove up conversions with experiment-driven product development on a client project. Armed with user testing, A/B testing, and multivariate testing, we built goal-oriented features to make data-driven decisions. Sue Anna will explain the technical implementation of experiments from the perspective of a developer, while Alexa will examine our ideation and design process through the lens of a designer. We’ll address some of the benefits we gained as well as some of the challenges we had to overcome. Audience members will come away with methods for planning experiments, executing experiments in code and making decisions from data.

Sue Anna Yeh received her degree in Film Production, but decided to take the leap and become a software developer after attending a Back-End Web course at General Assembly. She is currently a developer at CarbonFive in Los Angeles, where she enjoys collaborating with Design and Product to find elegant solutions to real-life problems. She works primarily in Ruby, but has also worked with Backbone and Node.js. Besides programming, Sue Anna loves books, road trips, and bad puns.

Grand Rapids: The Midwest's Best Kept Secret

Furniture City. Beer City, USA. Birthplace of the world's largest public art competition. These are just a few ways to describe Grand Rapids, the second largest city in Michigan. Home to five of the world's leading office furniture companies as well as being a center for automotive and aviation manufacturing, Grand Rapids is a city with a rich heritage in and respect for the disciplines of engineering and design — the perfect place for a summit about creating things, together.

Learn more about Grand Rapids

Conference Venue

Atomic Object

Atomic Object

Opening Reception

Atomic Object creates custom software that helps clients innovate and grow. A contributor to the founding of the Balanced Team movement, Atomic Object will host our opening reception on Friday night. Drinks and snacks will be served. Atomic is located at 941 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids.

Learn more about Atomic Object

The Factory Coworking

The Factory

Conference Headquarters

A vibrant coworking community in Downtown Grand Rapids, The Factory will be the perfect venue for the 2015 Balanced Team Summit. The Factory is located at 38 Fulton St. West, Suite 400 Grand Rapids.

Learn more about the Factory


Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts

Saturday Night Gala

The UICA builds creative community by providing genuine experiences with contemporary art. The upstairs gallery and outdoor patio will host our evening of food, drink and conversation. UICA is located at 2 Fulton St West, Grand Rapids.

Learn more about the UICA

Hotel Information

City Flats Hotel, Courtyard Grand Rapids Downtown, and JW Marriot Grand Rapids are all within easy walking distance of the conference venue.

Flights & Transportation

You'll likely want to fly into Gerald R Ford International Airport (GRR). From there, you can take a cab, a hotel shuttle, or Uber into downtown Grand Rapids.

Our Sponsors

Thank you to the companies below for their generous support of Balanced Team! If you would like to learn about sponsorship opportunities for the future please talk to us.

Gold Sponsors

Silver Sponsors

Why Support Balanced Team?

  • Contribute to the exploration of new methods for collaboration in product and service design and development.
  • Connect with a fascinating set of individuals from varied disciplines and companies from startups to enterprise.
  • Gain new perspective and fresh practices that you can immediately bring to bear in your organization.  
  • Raise your company’s profile among industry innovators and leaders in the community.

Download Sponsorship Pack

To get involved or to learn more, contact Rick at 616.460.2606 

Register Now To Attend

Your ticket includes opening reception, attendance at all conference events, breakfast and lunch on Saturday and Sunday, and dinner on Saturday. Capacity is limited - register today!
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Code of Conduct

Balanced Team Summit is dedicated to providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion. We do not tolerate harassment of conference participants in any form. Sexual language and imagery is not appropriate for any conference venue, including talks. Conference participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the conference without a refund at the discretion of the conference organizers.

Any form of written, social media, or verbal communication that can be offensive or harassing to any attendee, speaker or staff is not allowed at Balanced Team Summit. Please inform a Balanced Team Summit organizer if you feel a violation has taken place and the conference leadership team will address the situation.

Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion; sexual images in public spaces; deliberate intimidation; stalking; following; harassing photography or recording; sustained disruption of talks or other events; inappropriate physical contact; and unwelcome sexual attention. Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately.

If a participant engages in harassing behavior, the conference organizers may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning the offender or expulsion from the conference with no refund. If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact a conference organizer immediately. Conference organizers can be identified by special badges.

Conference organizers will be happy to help participants contact hotel/venue security or local law enforcement, provide escorts, or otherwise assist those experiencing harassment to feel safe for the duration of the conference. We value your attendance.

We expect participants to follow these rules at all conference venues and conference-related social events.