I firmly believe no one goes to work to do a lousy job, but sometimes projects deliver terrible results. So despite peoples best intentions, ‘shoddy’ work happens.
I am not suggesting that there is one ‘nice and easy’ reason why projects go wrong or deliver bad outcomes; there are so many potential pitfalls. Maybe the project was a bad idea to start with, maybe the project suffered from poor project management and was rushed, or perhaps a great product was compromised by poor implementation and change management, it goes on.
I am suggesting that if we don’t know or value the users’ needs, then the chances of success are compromised.
So this is the nub of it, how do we know, I mean, really know what the users need?
Finding out what customers need
Top Tip 1 – If you want to know what someone is thinking, needs or requires, ask them.
But, its more complicated than that, and Steve Jobs summarised the problem very well:
“Some people say, “Give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!'” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”
As problem solvers, our job is to engage with users, stakeholders, assess their needs and wants, then based on their inputs and using our skills and experience create an elegant solution.
There is a but
And then there is noise, distinguishing between, fact, opinion, belief and prejudice. It’s useful to be aware of this dynamic, and apply these simple definitions:
- A fact is verifiable, is there data to support proposition?
- An opinion is a judgment based on facts, an honest attempt to draw a reasonable conclusion from factual evidence.
- A belief is a conviction based on cultural or personal faith, morality, or values.
- A more dangerous assertion that requires careful attention is prejudice, a half-baked opinion based on insufficient or unexamined evidence, for example, ‘women are bad drivers.’)
Worth noting, all four views can be very firmly held and ‘clung’ onto even when they are ‘wrong’, creating heated discussions and behaviours that will derail an excellent project so any ‘noise’ shouldn’t be ignored.
Data is your friend, find it, and use it with care to help remove the emotion from discussions.
Remote Working Changes Everything
To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, ‘there are things we think we know and things we don’t know we don’t know’.
When running workshops, I always call this out; what worries me most is what I don’t know I don’t know; everything else can be dealt with?
As remote working evolves, I believe many hidden or unknown requirements already exist, and that new needs are forming, and others are beyond the horizon for now.
My challenge to you, what are your blind spots?
Top Tip 2 – Our blind spots then, what are your unknown unknowns? I know this might sound a bit’ sports psychologist’, but I find visualisation a potent tool when thinking about needs and solutions.
Health warning, be careful not to visualise your preferences, beliefs and prejudices. Stick to the facts, and take care, over projecting can be dangerous as you can wander into the world of making things up.
That said, imagining the world and requirements from a users perspective will uncover insights to validate.
Visualising office v remote worker problems
Imagine the scene, you are in the office, and a new tool or process is launched. You try using the new system and have a problem, the documentation isn’t as straightforward as it could be, so it doesn’t solve your issues, what happens? Probably after a short while of faffing and checking you admit defeat and ask your desk neighbour for help, annoying, but you are sorted.
Now the same scene as a remote worker, it's more complicated and problematic, the cycle goes like this:
- Using a process, you find its changed, and you are stuck, and you cannot finish the task in the time you expected and committed to. So you ‘hunt out’ the new documentation, whilst thinking, why has my tool changed?
- Using the documentation and the new process, it doesn’t work, and you are stuck. So you try reworking the process over and over again, in case the problem is you.
- You get to the point where you need help, but calling out is hard, who do you call? You don’t know what people are doing; they might be busy? They might not want to help you, and maybe they don’t know the answer? Maybe everyone knows about the new process, and no one wants to look stupid!
- Solution one, try revisiting the ‘not clear’ process and documentation one more time, is it me or can I fudge it?
- Still stuck, solution two, is there a workaround? Excellent, job done!
- Or, solution three, eventually, you try calling out for help, and so it goes on.
The power of visualisations is finding the detail. In a workshop, a call or virtual meeting the users may never mention they only have one screen, they might assume you already know, or it’s not important, it’s just ‘normal’.
Viewing the world from the users perspective allows you to visualise the scene, ask questions, spot problems, and determine if issues are noise, a nice to have or a significant problem.
The future of work
Why are your blind spots terrible for remote workers, because your previous experiences, preferences and reference points may not be relevant to their new needs. Which means, unless you are careful, you are developing wrong solutions?
Bit of a buzz word, ‘the future of work’ but it describes where we are succinctly, be aware of the unknowns, and seek them out.
Top Tip 3 – In our changing world, if nothing else follow these suggestions:
- Don’t assume anything; things have changed
- Seek out alternative perspectives
- ‘Worry’ about what you don’t know