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I've joined a company at the start of April. I am appointed as the Lead UX designer and I've been given a lot of information regarding the company's goals and future plans, just before I started.

When I started, I realized that the team is a little different than what I was told. We are following the KanBan approach so we have no sprints. This is still fine but the problem comes in with our development cycle. We have no deadlines, no clear goals, no clear mission as to what we are trying to achieve.

No I'm caught up having to work on improvements or redesigning parts of a system where there is no measurable outcome or shared understanding as to what we are solving or what we want to achieve. There's no real brainstorming any issue and when we meet up, we don't document any action points or action plans.

The fact that there's no common goal or expectancy, delivering the correct product seems almost impossible. I'm working with 2 analysts and mainly the head of development and everyone seems to have a different understanding of where we are headed. I followed a lot of Joe Natoli's work and I've been trying to get that shared understanding and agreement between stakeholders but when I ask these questions, the answer is usually: "it's complicated". When it comes to UCD, it seems like the managers are more vigilant in having their needs met instead of the needs/frustrations of the users.

So at this point in time, I have to lead UX with very little input/collaboration from team members and without any clear goal or roadmap.

Has anyone encountered anything similar to this? I would LOVE some thoughts regarding this.

  • Well it seems that people there are very chaotic and ignorant. Don't waste your time with them and find a better place where people know what they're doing and why. Just leave. – Kristiyan Lukanov Oct 5 '17 at 14:32
  • Re: "The fact that there's no common goal or expectancy, delivering the correct product seems almost impossible" - actually, it sounds easy: you can just do anything and it will be accepted. When you don't know where you are going, you are already there! – user67695 Oct 9 '17 at 17:23
  • @kristiyanlukanov, that is like running away from a good opportunity to grow as individual and company. – jazZRo Oct 10 '17 at 8:15
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I started working for a company as the first and only UX professional on-staff about a year and a half ago. At the time we were in a pretty similar position: while we had projects and deliverables, we didn't have any real goals or mission.

Since I've started, I've been working hard to establish UX as part of the company culture. Here are some of my biggest takeaways.

Above All Else, Establish a Process

The first and biggest step you can take towards gaining more focus on UX within any organization struggling to adopt it fully is to establish a clear process. Every UX designer seems to have their own UX process, myself included, and each process should be different based on context. However, by establishing and socializing your process, you set expectations about what the business can expect from you, and what you can expect from them.

At the feature level, having an established process will help provide a better understanding of timeline and progress among your team members and business partners-- transparency that appears to be sorely lacking. At the user story level, it will also help you establish goals and provide a more clear understanding of expected results of recent work.

To help with transparency, consider adjusting your team's Kanban columns to reflect where your team is in the UX process. Rather than following the traditional "Backlog," "Ready to Work," "In Progress," and "Complete" structure, create columns that reflect the steps in your process such as "Iterating," "Low Res Design," "High Res Design," "Refined With Team," "In Development," "Deployed," and "UX Testing."

Critical to any Kanban team's success is the retrospective-- taking time every so often to look back and discuss what's working well with the team, what isn't, and also to discuss upcoming work. If you don't have occasional retrospectives, either post-release or at regular time periods throughout the year, make sure that you get this on the calendar as part of your overall process.

It's worth noting that, whatever process you use, the process should be your own, based on your understanding of the needs of your company and goals. While it's good to ask for feedback initially, don't wait to set something in stone, even if your feedback on goals and direction is wishy-washy.

Set a meeting with your analysts, head of department, and managers to present your process, with a clear understanding that this is a presentation of what you will be doing and not an invitation for feedback. If nothing else, it's a starting point for a process that can change in the future. In every journey, however, you need to take that first step.

Socialize the Benefits Among Stakeholders

In order to gain buy-in to your process, you must be able to explain why that process is beneficial to your stakeholders.

Who are your stakeholders in this situation?

Your team will gain transparency and reduce friction/time to completion by having a clear understanding of what's expected at each step along the way.

Your business partners will have a better understanding how your team works, and why it makes the requests that it does at different steps in the development cycle. They should also experience a boost in cross-team communication, as any good process places the UX professional in a unique position to coordinate efforts and facilitate communication across groups.

Your end users will experience a better product, gain clarity into the development life cycle and priorities, and have more input on the direction of your product. This is always a bi-product of greater customer engagement and UX testing.

Set Goals Around KPIs For Your Team

You wouldn't go to the archery range without a target. Everyone needs something to shoot for, and it's time you gave your team a mark.

Begin gaining goal orientation by establishing a few KPIs for your team. What you choose initially matters less than having a goals in the first place. Two easily understandable metrics to cherry pick might be lead time and cycle time. Do some research to find out how your team measures up and set small goals for improvement.

It might feel wrong to set the bar low, but doing so serves two main purposes. First, it helps give your team something to shoot for while getting used to an established process. Secondly, achieving even small goals feels like a win, rather than whiffing on larger jumps. It's important to have wins early in the process to keep the momentum towards UX focus strong.

Summing Up

Establish a process. Socialize the benefits. Set goals. If you can do these three things, you'll develop a more focused UX culture and drive results in your organization.

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    Hey @denveruxer, In a desperate act, I've posted this same thing across multiple platforms. I have to say, your feedback definitely brought some relief. Most people's advice is to just run away and find a better place to work but I feel like it's a little naive as you don't know what's waiting for you on the other side. I have been reading through your feedback a couple of times and I am definitely putting some of those things in place ASAP. Appreciate your feedback man! A definite light at the end of the tunnel. Happy Ux-ing! – Brendin Du Plessis Oct 6 '17 at 7:57
  • Thanks @BrendinDuPlessis! I saw your posting over at UXMastery and wanted to post my response there as well (I'm actually over there a lot more than I am here). I'm glad I could be helpful! If I can do anything else for you, please let me know. – denveruxer Oct 6 '17 at 14:46
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I've had a similar experience - I was employed in Optimisation. The company had no clear goals or direction for me to base my work on. Further down the line they have now lost their entire team because the people employed had the knowledge and passion but without stronger leadership sadly they can't function as a team.

You need to get hold of some kind of brand guidelines from the people above so at least your UX ideas are following a set theme - otherwise it sounds like they execpt the world from you but are unwilling to compromise to help.

  • "Where there is no vision, the people vanish." – user67695 Oct 9 '17 at 17:27
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Be wary of jumping into a workflow that thinks of itself as "lean" and imposing additional process on it. Even if they're doing it wrong, they may not see it that way and if that's the case your added UX process will only feel heavy. They'll see the overhead, not the upside.

"It's complicated" is the battle cry of people afraid to define goals, especially when they defy concise explanation. That's exactly why Scrum defined a product owner the way they did - i.e. so that rather than having developers and developer managers try to define goals and finish criteria, they could just work and punt that stuff over to the product owner.

My personal $.02 is that, absent formal Scrum or something like it, the UX lead should act as the de facto product owner. Be the change you want to see. After all, you're the one who sees the problem, right?

It doesn't have to even involving saying "I'll act as product owner." Just go ahead and do what a good product owner does and be accountable for explaining the human customer's context of the work being done. Developers aren't trained to think that way but you are, so grab that wheel. Only then will you be able to argue effectively what is needless risk vs what is aligned with the optimal user experience.

Reverse-engineer customer needs. Play detective. Ask questions. Don't let "it's complicated" stand in your way. Get sh*t done.

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