Sunday, 23 April 2017

My UX fall – The day I lost all hope

Combination of stress, prejudice and brooding is evil. Being firm believer of hope and speaker for patience to deal with clients does not make me immune to reality. And the day when it hit me hard has came. I succumbed and I have lost all hope.

New year started off with big disappointment over the past years lack of success and lots of work to do to on new fronts. I was stressed due to high amount of expectations I put on myself. It was around this time when new initiation was born.

Hackathon

I was not the only one swarmed by unfinished projects and ideas for improvements. One of departments decided to throw a hackathon to get some closure on their dreams for brighter future. It sounded good, but the more I heard about it, the less I liked it.

Every bit of information screamed the same ol' story I have heard so many times the year before. The statements I read between the lines can be summed up to this list:

  • we know what is best
  • no research is required
  • we care about users but do not want to learn anything about them or hear from them
  • as people with no technical skills, we took the liberty of creating estimates for all technical tasks
  • Minimal Viable Product (MVP) is nonsense – everything must be done immediately and to the full extend
  • we like buzzwords
  • we answer only to our managers so everything we make will please them even at the expense of users

Fed up with this attitude I struggled against my conscience. I wanted to help but I did not want to help. I like being involved in innovative projects but I could not handle any more of this nonsense. I was on the edge of breaking apart. Eventually, I was not part of this initiation until later on.

Changing peoples attitudes

I tried to make it work but I simply was not fit for it at the time. I had no hope and no motivation. Luckily my colleague stepped in and handled the situation by:

  • having a call with stakeholders about the correct approach
  • advocated research and kept asking question while explaining that without answers it will be difficult to proceed properly
  • repeating that the stakeholders are not the users and that they do not understand them as they should
  • going over the estimations which were totally unreal and defining the importance of MVP
  • noting that buzzwords hold very little meaning
  • rebuking the need to create solutions only to present them to managers who have nothing in common with the users

Next steps

Hackathon spawned some good projects which were still suffering a little bit with the problems described above, but it was better. The teams decided to continue on their respective projects while adding more experts into the mix to deliver useful products.

I joined one of these projects later on and helped bring the vision to life. Even though the vision might have been distorted by the initial issues, it was too late to try to make huge difference about those. But it was not too late to show the importance of good analysis and planning.

Taking a break

I was happy my colleague took charge during the hackathon because it meant that the stakeholders got someone they could rely on while I could rest and get back on my feet.

Chilling for few days and finishing my previous work let me caught up with my plans. It proved to be the right thing to do as without it I would have suffered from burnout.

I recommend people taking a break. It is one of the best ways of getting something done. Burnout decreases your motivation, creativity and attention to details. It does not matter how many hours you work in such a state, you will not get anything done.

Sometimes it is necessary to take a step back and just relax. When you come back, it will be easier.

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