Designing to Design

by on August 6, 2013
in book, design

An Excerpt taken from, The Value of The Finite
One of the pitfalls that is currently plaguing an active project, is a lack of planning upfront to determine an appropriate outcome.

This shows up in several ways:
Lots and lots of ambiguity about the project. Ideas like , we just want you to start in with fresh eyes, the sky is the limit. As we all know every project has to come down to reality at some point, and this vague of a start can only lead to lots and lots of unnecessary inefficient iteration.

Better to get the project on some rails upfront if possible. What are the principles, what is the purpose, what are the priorities – what’s important or most important. How long do you have to complete the project?

These are the fundamental building blocks of information required to articulate design goals. The questions you need the answers to up front are:
1. Why are you doing what you are doing?
2. What are you trying to accomplish?
3. What does success look like?

From here you can exercise trade offs that will be feasible within time constraints. It unfortunate human nature to assume time is unlimited and that this level of ambiguity is acceptable early in a project.

Unfortunately too often this translates into heroic efforts late in the cycle to make the impossible possible, which burns people out leading to inevitable and unnecessary attrition.

Have the discipline to decide what is important at the beginning and stick to it, and only adjust if the alternative means failure.

Changing direction mid-project is another common challenge to projects. This can show up as new direction from management, a sudden new idea from someone influential to the project, or in the vehicle of pointed feedback. “That’s just not what we’re looking for anymore…”

Once the project has surpassed the ideation/discovery phase and transcended into execution, this is one of the most terrible and unfortunately common setbacks to projects and should be acknowledged as such.

Often times being a designer means that you’re presenting ideas and solutions through management with the goal of tipping the project from discovery into execution. This is when organizational politics can wreck havoc as other teams, sponsors, and vendors learn about your intentions, are able to see and visualize it first hand. Project stakeholders are suddenly jolted into reacting. Often not in accord with the project agenda.

Having the discipline to focus and ride the organizational wake of such reactions will test project leadership, management, and the team. Successfully guiding projects through each phase of the project phases is the role of management. Not the role of design. This is where early established principles and vision can be used to remind management of what your looking to accomplish, to rally internal agreements and influence stakeholders. Backsliding too far this early can have devastating effects on the project and team morale.

This is why it is so important to get as clear as possible on the why, what, and when of your project up front.

Any adjustments require a full re-evaluation to ensure a successful outcome.

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