If you’ve been following along, you’ll know there’s already been something of a saga with a previous employee. Sadly, that saga is still playing out in respect of the work they were supposed to be doing, but I now have to. If you’ve ever been in the position of having to basically redo a whole heap of work that you thought your were done with, you’ll know exactly how I feel right now.
To say there’s a little internal resistance to picking everything back up again, would be something of an understatement.
Also, I don’t actually have time anyway. So there’s that.
Of course, since I manage my own time, the second point doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. The question becomes something more like, what are my priorities and how can I rearrange my work so that I have some capacity to pick this other piece back up again.
Still… Something will likely have to give in the process.
Anyway, this post isn’t really about managing time or priorities. Though I do certainly have some thoughts on how to do both of those things, they’ll have to wait for another post. Instead, this post stems from an incident earlier on in the week, where I was put in the position of having to defend my work.
At least, that’s what it felt like.
Defence Mode: On
Again, resulting from the departure of employee-X (as they shall henceforth be referred to on this blog), there were some discussions to be had about the current status of the related work and how to move ahead with it. Since I can’t go into detail about the specifics, you’ll just have to imagine the situation a little bit.
The piece of work in question is the design(s) for a completely new product. I started working on the design around 6 months ago, and then 3 months in I was informed that employee-X was available to help out and had experience with the architecture in which our new product was going to reside.
“Perfect!” says I, since I have have plenty of other work to be doing with our existing product portfolio. “Here’s all the work I’ve already done on this project, the specifications, the wireframes, supporting info (mind maps) etc. Please take the work I already did and refine it, build on it and have the finished artefact ready ASAP.”
Well… That never really panned out. Instead it transpired that after around 2 months of gradually degenerating output, nothing further got done. And now a further couple of months down the line, people are starting to question the original premises on which all of the work was done in the first instance. Which kinda bugs me, since during the time I was working on the project, plenty of other folk were involved (designers, testers, architects) who had input into the design and direction of the product.
And during that initial design & development period, decisions were made with a degree of context, including available data at the time of making those decisions (market data, competitive analysis, survey results), in good faith with everybody involved in the process.
Now, fast-forward 5-6months, and I have questions being asked about why those decisions were made, and whether they’re the right decisions and maybe we should do it this way instead, by person(s) without any of the preceding context.
This is a little tough to swallow. Which brings me to the key points…
Impartial input is good
The person providing this input is impartial. The fact that they don’t have any of the context preceding this point is arguably a good thing. They’re able to provide an objective perspective on the product design since they are not really involved in the project and don’t have to deal with the implications of any recommended changes.
I am partial. I am invested. I am the one who is likely going to pickup the majority of the work resulting from any recommended changes. With this in mind, it becomes increasingly difficult for me to see the wood for the trees, as it were. There is a sunk cost bias. I have already spent a considerable amount of time and energy on the existing designs & work, and I don’t want to lose, or sink, the cost associated with that work.
Being able to throw away some amount of design effort is an essential part of the creative process, however. The challenge is not to get so invested in the work you’ve already done that you end up resisting the need to rework it.
Ego is bad
Having some skin in the game is an essential part of any design activity, in my view. It would be impossible to come up with design artefacts that you would be willing to take forward and start developing with or turn into a complete product, without being or becoming in some way invested in them at an emotional level. After all, if the designs aren’t satisfying to you, why would you want anyone else to work with them?
Problems start to arise when you become so wrapped up in those designs that you think they’re the only ones that will work. Or that you know better than other members of the team. Or that you know better than the customer. Of course, there are many examples of designers who did know better than their customers what they wanted. Steve Jobs and Henry Ford being classic examples. But this isn’t one of those situations. I’m no Steve Jobs or Henry Ford. I’m a rookie Product Manager still learning his craft.
Look for the silver lining
The thing with this whole situation is, it’s somewhat painful. Having gone through so much time and having put in an awful lot of effort up-front… To have to revisit, reopen and redo a lot of that work – hurts. But there is a silver lining.
The additional and impartial input will likely result in changes that produce a better overall design and hopefully a better product. With some distance from the original work, and with some time having passed since doing that work – there is a strong likelihood that I will also see issues and opportunities for improvement. So, I’m treating all of the additional discussions and insights as little nuggets of gold that are going to help turn our product into something special and valuable to the customers who will hopefully be using it in due course.
Learning to let go of my ego has been a valuable lesson generally in my relatively short time as a product manager. I wrote last week about how I’ve tried to address this a little in some of the meetings I facilitate. Hopefully this more recent experience will solidify the learning and make me a better designer overall.
Opportunities to learn
There are other opportunities for learning and development that I’ll be capitalising on also. Since one thing we’re lacking at the moment is a good source of technical input for the product design, it’s an opportunity for me to learn some more about the framework and architectural issues myself. And, the feedback loop serves to highlight challenges in our delivery process, which is resulting in some helpful conversations about how to address them from a resourcing (i.e. people) perspective.
The overall delivery process warrants some attention also though, and since that’s an area of interest to me, there’s an opportunity for learning here also.Thanks for reading. Feel free to reach out via a comment or on the socials if anything resonates.