2022-11-16 – Wednesday

Wednesday

  1. What have I done today?
  2. Meeting with another new client about a UX Review project they’d like us to do. It’s my favourite type of project. Something people have to do but don’t want to do. So how do we make it super easy? So having to do it doesn’t add to the negative column in your life. It’s not sexy, but it has an impact.
  3. I Ran a client through some design/UX work today, went well. Dan, as always, knocked it out of the park.
  4. A thought occurred to me today when we discussed expanding the system’s CMS capability to include a horizontal rule to separate content blocks. We discussed moving from using a standard HTML HR to allowing the editor to change colour/style. On the face of it, it’s a simple job, but what bout the future? Every time they get a new client, will they want a stylised line for them? If so, that’s additional development, maintenance and cost. How is that better than what they do now? Currently, they upload an image to act as an HR which they can customise without additional dev work. Perhaps we should design a pseudo HR, which is the same functionality as now but shows a default grey line, which they can replace with an image.
  5. I also had a pleasant discussion with a partner about our ongoing relationship, which made me think about our why and why I started UXC and what I want for the future.
  6. Reading: Makers by Cory Doctorow
  7. Wordle: 6/6 today was a hard one, and I’m still suspicious about my wordle group results!

2022-11-15 – Tuesday

Tuesday

  1. The day is full of meetings today! Which means I’ll not get any work done.
  2. The weather is horrible, raining and windy! Should have anti-fouled the boat yesterday. I’m not holding out much hope for Friday and Saturday. A week is a long time, meteorologically speaking.
  3. Analytics: Really interesting chat with Anna Corbertt about analytics today. Creating a meaningful dashboard is really tough because you need to be honest about what questions you’re asking. Page views are meaningless if your website is the default website in a corporate browser, Page views with a duration of great than x seconds/mins is much more meaningful. The follow-up question is, what is x? How long does someone need to be on the homepage before they leave or move on? What content is there? What are we expecting them to engage with? Meaningful KPIs are really hard but really fun and fascinating.
  4. I’m really unsatisfied with today’s work didn’t get half of the things done I wanted to.
  5. Had a kick-off with a new client; it’s a really interesting project in health care. Looking forward
  6. Started to re-read [Cory Doctorow’s Makers][https://craphound.com/makers/about/] I Read it when it was first published in 2009, and I am now curious how the near-future sci-fi holds up now that [i’ve got a 3D Printer] and device programming is so much easier now we have Arduino, Raspberry Pi (Pico W specifically). I bought the audiobook directly from Cory Doctorow as Amazon (Audible) rip-off authors re: Audiobooks, and he emailed to say thanks. How nice!
  7. Reading: Markers, Cory Doctorow
  8. Wordle: 4/6 again!

2022-14-11 – Monday

  1. Really slow start to the week! I’m finding it hard to concentrate as I had an awful night’s sleep! I didn’t nod off until 01.30 and up at my usual 06.30!
  2. I’ve also got to anti-foul the boat before the bad weather sets in this week, although Fri and Saturday are good. So can hold off until then if necessary.
  3. Work: I need to stop getting involved in the nitty-gritty of projects. I have to try to ensure that I can support the POs to take control of their projects, but I can’t help but worry things are being missed. I just need to trust the process, but it’s hard when you can’t see the workings out. The answer, I suppose, is to make sure the working outs are visible.
  4. Had a chat with Mark on the dog walk, and we lamented the knowledge workers lot! Nothing to show for the hours of toil. I suppose at least ‘we’ build digital assets, but it’s not physical.
  5. I really do believe in Matthew Crawford’s thesis in the Case for working with your hands Building something, physically manipulating real materials to create, something new is as close to nirvana as a human being can get. There’s something about getting your hands dirty that I’m not sure will ever be exercised from the human soul. I suppose the secret is to find work that is meaningful and that most other people ignore, don’t want to do, are too scared or don’t have enough time to do themselves but are skilled enough to require a reasonable day rate.
  6. I sometimes think I could make things with the 3D printer or laser cutter to earn a living. (3D printer pre-fab shop? ‘We’ll print your widgets for you’ style hardware store! Which is partly why I’ve finally bought one. Can I be creative? Create my ‘art’, as Seth Godin says. 
  7. My wife’s been waiting for the Ninja Air fryer since June. Ours finally arrived two weeks ago, and we’ve used it daily. I thought they were a gimmick, but we’re getting good use out of it so far. (fryer is a stupid name, though). 
  8. Except I still have no idea how to adjust to cooking times for the air fryer. Jacket potato: 5mins microwave, 20mins 200° air fryer = raw. Fish fillet: 18mins 200° = burnt!
  9. I’ll try fish at 10mins next time!
  10. Wordle: 4/6 have a family wordle group now: Tam, Dad, Kate and William. Some suspicious scores today!

The Second Brain.

Sum:

  • Create a reliable system for storing and managing information inputs
  • Use it consistently
  • Engage with the inputs and consciously add them to your system.

Influences

David Allen GTD
One touch inbox! Process inputs as they happen and offload to the system. 

—-

The productivity system has four components. 

  • Capture
  • Organise
  • Distil (progressive summarization)
  • Express (Show your work)

Minding others time when working remotely

When you need someone’s help when working remotely, be mindful of the other person’s time. 

Try “Hey Sarah, can you ping when me you have 5mins, there’s something I’d like to go over with you.”

Rather than 

“Do you have 5mins?”

The former allows the other person to keep control of their time and helps you to manage your own expectations about when you’ll get the help.

If you need help urgently, then be clear.

“Hey Sarah, when you have 5mins in the next hour there’s something I’d like to go over with you.”

Asking “Do you have 5mins” demands attention now, which the other person may not be able to give at that precise time. 

This causes stress and frustration on both sides of the exchange and life’s too short for that!

How collaborative are you?

How do you measure how collaborative your team is?

This is actually quite a difficult question and i’m genuinely interested to know what you think, so please feel free to comment below.

It’s hard to measure ‘collaboration’. Firstly, you can’t ask someone if they’re collaborative. Of course they are!

You can measure it indirectly though through proxy metrics. One metric I’m exploring with my teams is — How many messages are sent in open channels of communication.

I define an open channel of communication as: one where a person can get full access to a piece of data (or if you’re human, information) and be certain that it’s the most up to date version of that piece of data (information).

For example:

  • Messages that are shared in a channel in slack, are in an open channel of communication because anyone can, but doesn’t have to, join the channel and the data that’s there is always the most up to date version.
  • Messages that are shared via email are in a close channel of communication because the data can be fragmented and diverge without all recipients being aware, leading to uncertainty about the sovereignty of the piece of data.

Given the definition above, my proxy metric assumes that:

  • More messages sent in open channels, the more available the data is, the more collaborative the team is.
  • The more messages sent in closed channels, emails, DMs etc., the less available the data is, the team is less collaborative.

It’s hard to enumerate all the open and closed channels available to a team / organisation. So i’m starting with the data that’s most available.

Slack and Microsoft Teams provide some data which can point us in the right direction and allow me to compare against my subjective experience.

My team:

  • Number of Messages in open channels: 81%.
  • Number of Messages in closed channels: 19%.
  • Quite collaborative.

A team similar to mine in another part of the business:

  • Number of messages in open channels: 18%.
  • Number of messages in closed channels: 82%.
  • Not very collaborative.

Company wide:

  • Number of messages in open channels: 19%.
  • Number of messages in closed channels 81%.
  • Not very collaborative.

Does this proxy metric scale?

Obviously comparing a team of 10 to a company of 5000, or even to another team is fraught with dangers. There could be a bunch of reasons why more messages are in closed channels which has no impact on collaboration:

  • People aren’t familiar with the tools and capabilities i.e. they could just be using one aspect of the tool i.e. DMs and not the other features such as channels.
  • Collaboration is happening elsewhere
  • Most people aren’t using Slack or Teams.

However, if these conversations are happening, and they’re happening elsewhere then ‘collaboration’ is still limited to the people or teams involved; exactly as they are in DMs or Private Channels. There is still no way for the rest of the team or organisation to learn from that information, and for it to be absorbed into the wider collective intelligence of the organisation.

What does it mean for the conversation are ARE happening now?

In the last 180 days there were 5.14 million messages sent across the whole business in closed channels of communication (Teams Chat and DM’s, Emails, Skype for Business Messages).

Was there really no information in those messages that would have been better served being posted in an open channel, to the benifit of the wider company? How many times was that information duplicated and potentially corrupted just to be sent on to other individuals?

Driving towards autonomy – A UXer’s perspective

Over the past 15+ years I’ve noticed a dissatisfaction with the day-to-day of working as UXer in corporate environments in essence the problem boils down into two main complaints.

  • Some people don’t know exactly what’s expected from them in the execution of their role, quite often people understand what they’re being asked to do but can’t understand how that fits into the high level company objectives.
  • Some people are frustrated their deliverables are mandated, and don’t have any control over then way they complete their task.

My view is that the wider system we’re participating is at fault i.e. UX isn’t being engaged early enough to help define the solution from the high level business objects. Obviously the long term goal must be to move UX higher up the delivery chain so we can help to shape the solution before they are handed down to be designed.

Here I’m choosing to accept the reality (that at the moment there is a mismatch between what the designer believes they should be designing to achieve what the business wants, and what they are being asked to ‘design’) rather than fall into a position of learned helplessness and frustration that I’m not doing the job I expect to be doing.

So I have been considering the impact that this mismatch has on the team and individual morale, as I worry that this mismatch erodes motivation, and limits a persons ability to become autonomous; causing frustration and dissatisfaction. After all how many times can an individual be told no, before they give up offering suggestions all together? While we can’t, at the moment, alter the nature of the tasks being handed down. We can create an environment of personal and team autonomy, where we can select the tools, approach and environment we complete our tasks in.

Why is autonomy important?

Autonomy, being able to choose how (and where) you achieve a task, is important as it is an innate precondition of psychological wellbeing and should be something every organisation supports. It is also a clear signifier of a teams maturity and that an individual’s skills and experiences are valued.

My view is that autonomy, in an environment where a persons’s ability to influence a solution is constrained, creates job satisfaction leading to higher quality output, loyalty and deeper engagement in their role.

Note: I appreciate that some individuals are already highly motivated, and we can all point to examples where they are autonomous but i’m considering a framework but which we create a environment to make all staff regardless of their skill level achieve the same level of autonomy and empowerment.

How then can we create and reinforce an autonomous environment to counteract the mismatch?

To achieve autonomy a person needs:

  • Purpose – to define, or understand an outcome and the ‘value’ of the outcome to which an individual can dedicate themselves to achieving.
  • Mastery – the continual pursuit to build the skills and capabilities to deploy in order to achieve a purpose.
  • To be Trusted – to utilise theirs skills and expertise in the best way that they can to achieve the tasks they are being asked to do.

The role of a responsible organisation is to:

  • Clarify purpose
  • Support the mastery of skills and tools
  • Trust the individual to execute their role to the best of their ability.

This doesn’t happen in a vacuum and an organisation has to have a mature attitude to exercising their responsibility.

Clarify purpose

Organisation base purpose

UXers move into the profession to do good, they want to use psychology, insights and design to make the world a better place. They want to adapt the world of business and technology to meet the needs of the individual.

Some UXers are lucky, they will work for a startup or research organisation who are designing novel, purely user focused systems, but most aren’t.

Most UXers are hired by businesses who wants to make sure that the product or service they’re offering is able to extract the most amount of value from the customer.

We need to honest about this, a lot of the time the work itself isn’t sexy, but as long as the work is valued by the organisation, and helps to relieve the pain of the customer somewhat then most people are happy to work hard to deliver these projects.

This is usually enough to give someone a sense of purpose about their work within the context of their role but the key is to be honest about the situation. You’re not going to get anywhere by enticing people in with all the wonders of the world, if the reality is quite different.

Career base purpose

However, In order to get the a person or team fully engage, we need to engender a culture of career base purpose. Career based purpose extends beyond a person’s employment. By fostering a culture of career based, purpose will have a massive impact on morale, and the value a person brings to their role. It’s my view that everyone regardless of their role or position wants to become the best they can be, so we need to ensure that we enable people to get on a path to mastery.

Mastery of tools and skills

So if the work isn’t living up to expectations then what will motivate the UXer to give their best your business?

Mastery

If you create an environment where a UXer is supported in learning and using new tools and skills then you can help them towards a sense of mastery. This is essential for retaining senior members of the team but is mandatory for junior members of the team.

Most organisation have a self-development initiatives that will introduce them to the tools and activities they can use in their jobs but a mature organisation will provide a mentoring program that allows an individual to evaluate and select the tools they want use, in a supportive environment where mistakes are welcomed as a learning outcome.

It is the responsibility of senior members of the team to discuss the pros and cons and to create a base for learning. Their job is not to provide a dot to dot execution plan but to provide a framework by which the junior member of the team can self discover and master the requisite skills.

This approach has the added benefit of creating a team culture where self discovery is a default behaviour, and the team will gel in a way that prescription doesn’t allow.

When an individual has a sense of purpose and is on the road to mastery it then that the organisation has to trust them to do their best without the need to micromanage them

Trust

It should be a given that if someone is good enough to get through their interview and probation period then they should be trusted to conduct their role as a thinking, trustworthy human being. It’s the mark of a mature organisation that people are treated like adults to discuss, disagree and find approaches to deliver without the need for a rigid delivery methodology.

There is, without question, the need to coordinate activities that overlap, and are delivered through a single mechanism but to require an individual to produce wireframes before designs, or to produce a specification document in a rigid format just to achieve a delivery checkpoint is senseless. it prevents the team from using intellegence and individual skills within the team in the most appropriate way and puts people in an ‘volume rather than value’ mentality.

If a UXer and a designer or developer can get an understanding of what needs to be achieved through sketching and a collaborative design sessions, then so be it. We have to remember that the purpose of any delivery activity is to achieve an outcome for the business, not to produce the largest volume of documentation.

There should be guidelines which model ‘best’ behaviour but any kind of dictatorial process beyond that will slow down delivery, dilute autonomy and kill motivation.

It’s an organisation’s role to create team principles and culture that supports and expects trust. It’s an individual’s responsibility to deliver against those principles in the best way they can. Checks and balances should and will exist through regular review session with mentors, and through measuring business value from the task delivery.

We should allow people to be free to deliver, to make mistakes and to take responsibility for those, to time shift their work if a personal commitment occurs in working hours. We should trust that people do things to the best of their abilities and in the best way they know how. We should trust that people won’t take the piss if you give them freedom over their time, or working practices.

If we create clarity of purpose, enable people to walk the path to mastery and trust them to be the best that they can be, then we will create an autonomous environment, where the people and business will move towards creating value and contentment.

After thoughts – for the UXer

Treating workers as adults, allowing them to be autonomous is a big step for a lot of organisations, but i believe it to be step well worth taking.

The other side of the coin, is that those of us who seek greater autonomy has to embrace the principles too. We have to want to become masters in our field, and sometimes the only way to do this is by doing those mundane tasks. Those task you don’t want to do, or don’t see any value in.

I was listening to an audio book the other day and was reminded that world class sports professionals become world class by purposeful practice. They kick hundreds of corners, or penalty kick. They shoot hundreds of hoops. They take responsibility for their careers and understand the path to mastery isn’t achieve in months.. it’s a continuum over a lifetime.

If we want to be treated like adults, and be offered autonomy then we must keep learning, keep practicing. We must treat every task as a learning opportunity to hone our skills to create value for the businesses we work for.

We must also be honest, and trustworthy. We can do this by being open about what we’re doing and why, we must not being afraid to show the steps to delivery and to make our work visible to our team; We must above all demonstrate value.

Thought: The difference between business and user centred design.

As a business you want people to buy, and use your products and services to increase profits by selling more or by reducing costs. The things you build to support this help to achieve those business goals but are not usually designed to accommodate a ‘customers’ busy life.

Business centred design creates a ‘destination’ mentality; the idea that a product/service has a primacy of place above everything else that’s going on in the customer’s life.

User-centred design teaches us that ‘customers’ are people first, ‘customers’ second.

Here’s what I mean.

Businesses often decide to introduce a ‘self-service’ channel to reduce costs.  For a customer, this means they now have to do something that the business used to do for them. Quite often this is sold as ‘Giving the customer control’ but it is not, you have ‘forced’ them to undertake another task, amongst all the other things they have to do.

By understanding the impact on the person who uses your products and services you would provide tools that help to achieve your business goal and that would move the customer back to the state of competence they had before you outsource your work to them.

The future is nearer than you think, and it’s ‘not cool’

Tonight I will be meeting friends in a restaurant (tavernas have existed for at least 25 centuries). I will be walking there wearing shoes hardly different from those worn 5,300 years ago by the mummified man discovered in a glacier in the Austrian Alps. At the restaurant, I will be using silverware, a Mesopotamian technology, which qualifies as a “killer application” given what it allows me to do to the leg of lamb, such as tear it apart while sparing my fingers from burns. I will be drinking wine, a liquid that has been in use for at least six millennia. The wine will be poured into glasses, an innovation claimed by my Lebanese compatriots to come from their Phoenician ancestors, and if you disagree about the source, we can say that glass objects have been sold by them as trinkets for at least twenty-nine hundred years. After the main course, I will have a somewhat younger technology, artisanal cheese, paying higher prices for those that have not changed in their preparation for several centuries.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan, discusses futurism – The future will not be cool