I’ll Take My Coffee Black & Blue
Slack arguments before I’ve had my first cup of coffee are just the worst!
Ever have one of those mornings? If you’re like me, you use your commute as a chance to catch up on email, news, etc. Normally I consider this a peaceful time to myself but sometimes its just the opposite.
I’d been checking Slack and noticed a request from one teammate for others to join a discussion taking place on the General channel. Curious, I switched over and began reading but soon groaned at what I’d found. Questions around a feature had derailed into a diatribe against all things design, putting my department on the defensive when asked why the implementation we chose didn’t mirror those of other popular sites.
Now I’m sure you’re like me. Coffee-fueled adrenaline kicked in and I was ready with a smart retort. I wanted not only to end the argument but remind everyone and their mother who the experts here were. Of course this lasted two seconds before remembering I wasn’t in high school and I slowly began digesting the core issues.
UX is a field where its passionate practitioners are constantly waging war. Whether it’s uncovering a new pattern, carving out time to engage in qualitative research, or validating radical feature/product ideas; we are an energetic group. Having what we do criticized by our boss, our boss’ mother, our coworker’s son’s best friend’s child… you get the idea. It can be a tad exhausting and sometimes evokes strong responses from the most placid of us. Keeping a hand on our emotions while tactfully incepting ideas and concepts into the minds around us… it’s a dance we do daily.
To be fair, we have some help jumping on the emotional rollercoaster. Who likes being asked to change tactics mid project to match the newest app someone downloaded last night while watching The Bachelor?!
So after stilling the twitch in my eye and taking a breath, I decided to ask a few questions about the feature. I found out the criticism wasn’t off base but there was more to it. In fact, the very short-comings being highlighted was the of a development team claiming time constraints as to why implementation was sub-par.
Ah-HA! I had my scapegoat! I had the information I needed to lay down some serious hurt on the developers leading the charge, pitchforks in hand. While this would be very satisfying (let’s be honest), would it do my any real good in the end?
In slamming my coworkers, I’d effectively solidify barriers between teams struggling to communicate and collaborate on a daily basis. What is the long-term benefit of my short-term satisfaction? So after a moment I decided to respond with the following:
“You know you’re right! It looks like there were constraints around timeline holding this from being the experience we all wanted! Uncovering opportunities to revisit previous work is HUGE and the UX group has created a dedicated Slack channel where we would love everyone in the company to join and highlight opportunities to create better experiences for our users!”
What I wanted to do was to invite people to approach our team. Before, UX was perceived as a crazy group of doodlers working in a windowless room behind closed doors. In acknowledging an issue I attempted to create an pathway where in asking us questions, we could show our craft in how we answered.
Was this the silver bullet solving our issues to communicate design decisions? Heck no! It was, however, a step of many calculated steps to foster transparency and a willingness to collaborate in a company where that didn’t exist before. Sometimes we have to weigh our short-term benefits with the long-term gains.