I originally wrote this post about a month ago and never sent it. Things have since changed at Shopify. As a result, I have one more post to follow to wrap things up.
I saw this tweet that asked, "When you group PMs, developers and designers by project, how do you maintain a consistent user experience and design?"
I've read and heard about how Spotify (ahem, not Shopify, where I work) does it via a presentation on scaling agile. Namely, chapters or guilds where those of a similar discipline get together to share.
However, I don't think even the Spotify model necessarily addresses the question from the tweet. Does having all your designers getting together help maintain a consistent UX and design?
While conversations within a guild are good, I think it's still necessary to have someone in place to direct the product and establish that consistency across the board, especially at a design level. I believe that someone needs to be the decision maker. The Product Owner. For some companies, that's the CEO. The product just isn't big enough to need more than that. For larger companies, I think it makes sense to have people responsible for that consistency within a "tribe" (borrowing from the Spotify model).
At Yahoo!, for example, the design team I worked on was responsible for a suite of products. UX and design were made consistent across the suite.
Shopify, to date, has tried to solve this problem using Product Groups. Product Groups are like a chapter but grouped around related products. In one case, that would be store management. There's no leader of the group; it is driven by consensus.
However, this has only officially been done at the product manager level. At the engineering level, we've seen this happen unofficially and with good benefit as patterns are codified and distributed to other teams, resulting in a better and more consistent product overall.
At the design level and UX level, we haven't had this and it's something that I've been encouraging to happen. Sections get designed or redesigned but done differently—sometimes dramatically so—by each designer. I think it's important to have someone to ensure consistency in design, experience, and features across the entire product line. Someone who can see how all the pieces intersect and knows the product intimately.