Discover and Frame

This is a guide to how to plan for and execute discovery and framing on a Truss project. It sets out how to structure and approach the early stages of discovery research, how to distill wide-ranging research into clear next steps, how to share research and ideas, and who is accountable for what.


The goal of Discovery and Framing is to get enough information to help us make better connections in a given context. Asking questions up front - discovery! – can help your team make better connections.


This diagram outlines the basic structure of a Discovery and Framing (sometimes called D&F) process. It’s often referred to as the “double diamond” diagram. At the end in blue, you’ll see the typical, iterative product development build cycle. However, what sets Truss apart is the Discovery and Framing phase with which we begin each engagement. We frontload every development cycle on every project with this phase of research. Moreover, not only does this research phase happen in a big way at the beginning of projects, but it also repeats over and over again in small ways during the development cycle. Our goal is to understand who the users are who will benefit from our proposed solution, as well as the technical environment in which the solution will live.

Many organizations we see today have a product idea in mind and jump straight into defining product requirements before validating that a solution is right for the people using it. In addition, some clients may also present us with problem statements that we validate. The Discovery and Framing phase helps teams avoid building merely on assumptions, instead backing up the product decisions with data and ultimately saving time and money by avoiding building the wrong thing.

In the discovery/exploratory/generative research phase, we sit and chat with people to understand their goals and motivations, but also to observe, to gain an understanding of the sticky notes on their desks, or spreadsheets they keep on their desktop in order to get the job done, and all those other self-organizing hacks because we know that all this information, collectively, will lead us to narrow in on the most impactful places to focus on first. This is exploratory research that helps us understand the problem space.

In the framing phase, we’ll come together as a group and review. Which problems will be most impactful for our users? In this phase we also evaluate a wide variety of solution opportunities, and eventually, learn which solutions solve our problems the most effectively.

By gaining a solid understanding of the problems our users face, exploring lots of different solutions, and validating those solutions with the folks who actually are using the system, we can assure we are building products WITH our users, and not FOR them.

How this document works

The goal of this document is to describe what a Discovery and Framing process looks like, so that you can both find your way and tailor the process to your given project context.


That said – it takes a lot of effort to get to a shared reality. In addition, it might not feel particularly linear, either. There is no magical process or technique that will get us off the hook for nurturing functional, collaborative relationships and communication. We are all messy people!

Doing the discovery research process together as a team can help you build alliances, pay attention, and act without fear as you work through those questions together.

We describe Discovery in three phases:

  1. Planning - get organized + form questions
  2. Exploratory/generative research (aka discovery) - gather data → analyze data
  3. Solution brainstorming/evaluative research (aka framing) - explore solutions, refine ideas, and prepare to build

The intent is to help teams find their way, stay aligned, and have a shared understanding of what progress looks like.

Building alliances

At this point you might be saying – hold up, I know how to do this. This is NOT my first rodeo. Don’t make me follow a guide that has this many steps.

Not to worry! You should tailor this process to fit your team’s project context and timeline. Think of this as a guide, not a recipe for making croissants where you will be wrecked if you skip a step or initiate your baking adventure on a day that is 85 degrees with high humidity. You got this.

The important thing to remember here is to bring everyone along in the research process so that you can build relationships and shared understanding. Take it one conversation at a time, keep focused on how to make evidence-based decisions together, and make sure to build in intentional breaks for reflection. This part of the process is less about making things, more about making decisions. The common refrain is “Are we making the best possible decisions to yield success?”

Where did this guide come from?

In mid-2021, a cross-disciplinary team of MilMovers formed a working group to write up this process. They created a Miro template that many different teams used (and adapted) over time. After using it for a year, in 2022, we are adapting that documentation to work for more Truss projects, starting by mashing it up with processes from CMS EASi, Scylla, and MC Review, too.

Example source materials:

  • PO 10 from MM
  • Miro board from Scylla
  • In addition, Design and Research conducted research on research in winter/spring 2022, asking “how do practitioners experience how Design plans, conducts, and communicates research?” The goal was to both understand what we do well, and what we could do better in the Discovery and Framing process. A primary takeaway was that Truss teams aren’t always clear on how they should approach discovery research (you’re in this phase, here’s what you should know, you will have to adapt this, et cetera), and making this process part of our DNA would help achieve consistency between projects.

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