Don’t Half-Ass The Changes You Attempt

Last week, I came across this post by Bruce Tognazzzi over on his AskTog blog in which he talks about ways to justify the use of rough sketches in the design process.  He (and John Murray whom he quotes) points out that qualitative evidence isn’t readily available on such actions and thus can cause a tough sell to companies and clients alike.  He goes on to illustrate behavioral and psychological changes that can be observed (e.g. designers and developers working together more efficiently); however, such cannot easily be measure.

This reminded me of Dr. Spencer Johnson’s book Who Moved My Cheese? in which 4 personifications of human behaviors towards change are portrayed in a fun and simple story.  As a designer and developer, I’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry as well as in any given workplace that I’ve been employed.  Reading Bruce’s post reminded me of the “Haw” persona from Dr. Johnson’s book – a persona who accepts changes over time after he sees something better.  In the instance of attempting to change a business process to include rough sketches, it’s all too common to hit resistance; especially if the status quo is working.  This level of resistance can often lead to compromises where the step is added and is unexpected by the client.  If the client was expecting a fairly-functional prototype and instead received rough sketches or simple wireframes, the experiment will probably be perceived as a failure.

It’s all about setting positions and managing expectations early.  Paul Boag and his team at Headscape echos this sentiment when this produced “Where are My Rounded Corners?” – an excellent piece of content on the web design/development concept of Progressive Enhancement.  We can learn two things by reviewing the document.  First, set expectations and state your position/process early.  If the client knows it’s coming, there’ll be less backlash than if delivered after their own assumptions and expectations have been set.  The second thing is to ensure the content is clear, concise, and appropriate for the context.  The document is focused for the client and speaks in the client’s terms and towards their needs.  This is not always easy but can make a world of difference in any content you produce.

So after reviewing these three documents, the largest thing I can see is that if you are crusading to change something in your organization; don’t half-ass it.  Many times change comes from passionate people and you’re only selling yourself and your position short by only talking about the benefits via a slideshow.  Make an initial case and strive to do a full integration as your test and then review the change from all sides.  If the change directly interfaces with the client; interview the client.  If it interfaces with the developers; talk to them too.  If such goes well; the last important thing to remember is that others should be trained in such since inconsistency can breed Dr. Johnson’s “Hem” mentality.

Don’t half-ass the changes you attempt in anything.  The worst thing that can happen (in the context of changing a business process anyways) is you learn from the experience which is never negative.

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