Move Fast? Break Things? Why?

Advice from The Sherwins for February 2018

 
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Hey Sherwins—

I’m in charge of design at a startup, and I need your advice. What do you do when you see that your startup is not interested in prioritizing design in the feature scoping process? When "just do shit fast" starts to creep in, how do you ensure design is still part of the success criteria when the criteria is speed over quality? The people I work with are trapped in a "we used to move so fast" mindset, yet I'm faced with cleaning up all the messes left behind from that way of thinking. *And* they want to get back into that high-speed mode regardless of the proven wreckage that it causes on the path to releasing stuff. **And** at the same time, they’re complaining that we're losing traction due to bad UX and visual design from the past!

Yes, this is my new reality in 2018. I'm always up for a challenge, but I need to find my inspiration to conquer it.

—Y in Chicago

 

We've worked with a lot of clients that present us with scenarios as complicated as yours. We frequently use a clarifying technique during an early work session where we only ask questions. Allow us to demonstrate this technique with your situation. By asking questions, we may be able to shine a light into a few nooks and crannies that you may have overlooked. You might not have the answers, but that’s ok. It’s possible that you don’t need advice from us, you just need the right questions to examine some of the underlying assumptions and principles at play. And, you know, kick your startup in the ass.

 

You said: What do you do when you see that your startup is not interested in prioritizing design in the feature scoping process?

  • What behaviors do you associate with lack of interest in prioritizing design in the feature scoping process?
  • Have there been situations where design was prioritized in a way that you would like to see more of?
  • How long is the feature scoping process, and what percentage of time can design currently claim during it? What is your ideal? What is their ideal? Do these ideals differ from stakeholder to stakeholder?
  • When imagining the ideal “design-prioritized feature scoping process”, what activities would you want to include? What outcomes would you expect from those activities? What would your stakeholders want to include, and why? 
  • What would design prioritization look like if this current speed were non-negotiable? (Again, from your perspective and from theirs.)
  • Would your answers to the above questions hold true for both improving existing features and creating new features?
  • What is the current timeline for incorporating karaoke into your scoping process?

 

You said: When "just do shit fast" starts to creep in, how do you ensure design is still part of the success criteria when the criteria is speed over quality?

  • Why isn’t design “doing shit fast”?
  • Is design actually slow, or is it the perception of the non-designers that y'all are slow? Compared to what?
  • Has anyone been able to map “fast” to a particular timeline or hourly allocation per project?
  • Can you track the development of the company’s belief that quality and speed are in opposition? Is it driven by particular instances or a slow-growth attitude?
  • Can you run faster than all of your stakeholders? What if you’re swimming?

 

You said: The people I work with are trapped in a "we used to move so fast" mindset, yet I'm faced with cleaning up all the messes left behind from that way of thinking.

  • What times has this mindset benefited the company? What are the similarities and differences between those times and the times you’re describing now?
  • Is this mindset from an individual or a core group of people?
  • Are there specific instances when this “looking back” thinking comes up more often?
  • Are there instances when this thinking seems absent?
  • Is it design’s responsibility to clean up all the messes?
  • What is the process for cleaning up? Is that process consistently examined during retrospectives?
  • When you say “trapped”, do you mean like Lara Croft or more like Han Solo?

 

You said: *And* they want to get back into that high-speed mode regardless of the proven wreckage that it causes on the path to releasing stuff.

  • What is the proven wreckage? How has this proof been tracked and reported in the past? Is there room for improvement around the current system of reporting?
  • Why is this proof insufficient for the change you want to see?
  • What does the team get in the short-term in return for wreckage in the long-term?
  • What is the current communication in place during scoping meetings to discuss the impact of decisions from previous scoping meetings?
  • Can you describe the company’s retrospective process in terms of addressing this wreckage?
  • Has your wreckage ever spawned a meme?

 

You said: **And** at the same time, they’re complaining that we're losing traction due to bad UX and visual design from the past!

  • What traction are you losing due to bad UX and visual design?
  • How have the attempts to move through the backlog of UX and visual design fixes gone so far?
  • Do you have a preliminary estimate for the amount of time it would take to bring the backlog to “workable” status? What would “workable” look like for you and for other stakeholders? Are there any special tools, talent, or circumstances the company would need for this?
  • What product managers and engineers share responsibility for implementing the UX and visual design backlog, and can advocate for issues being addressed?
  • How are UX and visual design related to the overall quality of your product?
  • If designers do both UX and visual design as part of their work, is the need for this integration understood by others in the company?
  • Are employees able to understand and communicate clearly about the design systems in the product?
  • What UX-related metrics do you track that are associated with product quality?
  • What business problems do UX and visual design improvements help solve?
  • Were any of these questions helpful?
  • Would you let us know?


All best,
The Sherwins


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Send questions to questions (at) askthesherwins (daht) com. All questions become the property of Ask The Sherwins, LLC and may be edited. Our advice shouldn't be construed as a replacement for the appropriate legal or professional counsel. This advice will be around till the end of February 2018… wait, is this a leap year?