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We are a small team of UX/UI designers in an organization.

Often we are micromanaged by a single designer who has direct links with highest authority. Instead of going in the usual route of identifying use-cases, design thinking, iteration with users, refinement after/with the development team, we often find ourselves constrained a high-profile person, with direct connections with the designer, who wants something "now" and a quick design ready for development.

Often our work is extensively expert reviewed by this designer for hours and we find ourselves spending a deal of time trying to satisfy what is wanted to a point where there becomes too little time to actually test our designs with users and developers. It often mentally drains you to a point where you simply don't feel like it really matters if put in more hard work. I presume it probably is because the credit will go to this designer, who is a person of authority–not you.

The problem we're facing is this designer has a doctorate in some area of experience design, has over 25+ years of experience and directly interacts with the highest authority of the organization.

I tried to escalate this problem but haven't succeeded completely. I need alternative perspectives on this so that I can raise awareness on how this is hurting our progress as a team.

  • Do you perhaps have acces to the 'pre' and 'post' design data? I do not know how your organization works but, at one point the designs should be reviewed with new data to see if the design was somewhat correct. (For instance lower bounce ratings / Less questions to support team? / Higher CTR etc). – Kevin M. Mar 4 at 13:02
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You're probably not going to like this answer.

Here's how this is likely to be perceived by anyone you escalate this to who isn't a designer:

Your design team is led (you haven't said whether that designer is the head of the team on the org chart, but it doesn't matter, it's the de facto state of affairs) by a highly experienced, educated, and knowledgable designer. The extensive reviews of your work is mentoring, rather than micromanaging, the rest of the team. The work is getting done, presumably to a satisfactory quality level; it's getting done quickly, and literally nobody cares who gets the "credit" for it. Design thinking, use cases, and user testing are time consuming and unnecessary, because this designer has been doing this for 25 years, they've got a doctorate, they knows what they're doing.

That's what you're up against. I'm not saying that's it's correct, or a good way to run a design team -- it isn't -- I'm saying it's how it is likely to be perceived by management.

Now, it's possible that they really are that good: experienced, talented designers genuinely can get away with skipping over a lot of the usual design process for relatively routine tasks -- which, honestly, many design tasks are -- because they've done it a bunch of times already and seen the results.

It's also possible that they're one of those people who's just really good at office politics, surrounds themselves with juniors who aren't experienced enough to challenge them, has the same bag of design tricks they reach into every time, and is just coasting until retirement.

You're in a better position to judge which of those is the case for this particular person than we are. But either way, my advice is more or less the same:

Don't go up against them. Learn from them.

Use your time in this (probably dysfunctional) team to position yourself for a better situation in your next job.

If they're a good designer, those extensive micromanaging design reviews are a real learning opportunity. When they asks for changes, try to find out the intent of those changes -- not necessarily pushing back against their decisions, but truly to understand why they're recommending them. (You may find that asking these type of questions will improve your position in the team.) If they're a bad designer, same deal, except that you use that bad advice to hone your own understanding of why it's bad advice, and of how if left to your own devices you might be able to do it better.

"Credit" within this team is unimportant. The way designers earn credit is by building a portfolio, not by getting kudos from management. Keep clean copies of your own best work for later. Take advantage of the fact that the micromanaging is augmenting your portfolio; or keep a copy of your own work from before the designer made you ruin it. (Either way you can study and learn from the difference between the two versions.)

You may make some headway with the "shouldn't we be doing some user testing" and "shouldn't we be iterating on this design post-development" questions. In both cases do it through them, not by trying to escalate over their head; if they're not on board it's not going to happen anyway.

I know this is deeply unsatisfying, and less about UX than about office politics. But that's a big part of the job, unfortunately.

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Actually, 1 people speaking with "Autorities" can be good, if done proprely (which is not the case from what you say).

I identify multiples problems here :

1) "Natural" process of the UX is destroyed

2) Communication with this manager seems complicated

3) The "Fast" he's asking of the team

So let's start with 1. In this, you could find a strategy to show how bad this way of doing UX is (Find a lot of case studies of people doing this process and show how hard it is to design something). Don't forget to NEVER confront him directly, you just show "Oh look, we found a new way to process the UX/UI of our next projects". Never put him in the position of "You're wrong" or else he will badly react (reactance doing his office then...). Try to persuade him by showing him that's HIS idea (in some way). You could also do steps by steps, showing how the whole new littles things in the process is good. Don't hesitate to use some HR stats

2 looks like a complicated thing... Maybe by showing how "Not agile" he is you could change his way of communicating with stakeholder? (since Agile is Trendy, you can use that to let him think that this will promote himself to the top).

3 Is not bad... If done proprely. By doing both of the above, the fast will be redefined in something nicer and smoother I think.

Also, all the things I said here are not "Solution to save your life in 30 seconds" but more like ways of thinking and resolving a problem in your team. You can check some books about persuasion to find a way to implement changes in your team!

Good luck on that tho.

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I had such situations tons of times. Currently I use the Human Centered Design terminology in such situations and point that it's good to use to be objective. If you want to create a successful project, you should take into account user's opinion and business opinion. On the other hand the responsability is on this guy. Sometime that's OK.

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