I was lucky enough to be invited to and take part in MOE foundation’s Young leaders and Entrepreneurs coaching program last week. It was a 3 day course outlining the principles and practical application of coaching techniques in business, sports, charity and youth development.
Having no expectations and open to learning as much as I could, I entered the experience with an open mind. On reflection I can honestly say I was blown away by the level of enthusiasm from everyone involved, young and old, and all from different industries and backgrounds.
The course centered around 2 main methods:
GROW Model - Graham Alexander, Alan Fine, Sir John Whitmore (1985-90)
EXACT Goals - Carol Wilson revisiting SMART goals framework
After day 2, I began to realise how applicable these skills are to any UX practitioner, be it a consultant, lead, director or nube role.
1. Build rapport
Meeting someone for the first time can always be a bit daunting. Knowing what questions to ask, as well as how to ask them, helps to quickly find common ground and put both parties at ease. This is particularly useful when gathering information from users and stakeholders in the early stages of a project. After all, You’re more likely to tell a ‘friend’ something you did on the weekend, or complain about a current system, than a total stranger.
2. Ask open questions
Open questions are questions that cannot be answered with a Yes or No, such as;
How do you typically let your friends and family know about things you like?
What kind of things do you do on the weekend? - tell more about that…
What else might you be doing when answering a call on the bus?
They allow a conversation to open up and allow the coachee/user/interviewee to explore a topic, inputting things you may not have considered discussing. Get as much information up front, have a better understanding of what they like, and don’t like; what they do; how they feel, what makes them tick, what they want to achieve; then design around the facts.
3. Help others to help themselves
Real leaders don’t lead, they build; a good UX practitioner doesn’t tell, they show. Knowing what to ask people to explore options increases the likelihood of reaching a solution everyone is happy with. If people are happy with the solution, and their input in it, they are more likely to be self-motivated in developing it further. They may even feel like they are challenging and developing their own skills further in doing so.
4. Provide useful feedback
Useful feedback is always necessary when working in a team. Feedback allows us to review potential areas we may be falling down on and look for fresh or alternative ways to approach it. The sooner we know something isn’t working as well as it could be, the sooner we can learn about it and put it right. That’s where feedback comes in.
Feedback must be delivered in a constructive manner, but as much as possible, be free from personal bias. We are acknowledging that there might be ways to improve something here, not affirming that something is wrong or incorrect.
Consider reframing a feedback session with open-ended questions, such as;
Now that’s it’s all done, what’s your favourite part about this design/feature? What’s your least favourite part?
How might you make it better if you had more time?
Is there any code/design elements that were challenging to create? How can we make this easier next time do you think?
If all else fails - and your colleague still has not picked up on a glaring omission in your eyes, then you might like to suggest something;
You: Is it ok if I make an observation/suggestion?
Designer: Yeah, sure
You: Given the user of this particular part might be in hurry when submitting, do you think we could make this button a little more obvious somehow?
5. Set goals
Actions speak louder than words. Clear, well-defined, time-bound, measureable goals ensure a common objective exists across the team, and quite frankly – that sh*t gets done! Stakeholders, the user community, management and designers are all moving towards something tangible, each with their own responsibilities in ensuring it is delivered.
A great way of identifying goals, and subsequent actions, is to use mind mapping - or impact mapping - at the beginning of a project. This allows everyone to get involved, gaining ownership, and a big picture perspective of the ‘jigsaw’, as well as all the ‘pieces’ needed to piece it all together.
The jigsaw is generally a big shiny-goal such as
Increase the number of registered users on the site by 50% in the next quarter
This is then broken down into pieces known as mini-goals (and further again into teeny-tiny-goals) for each team or individual. These might be something like;
New users are “delighted” to sign-up with us!
- Register on your smartphone in 3 easy steps
- Register using your social network credentials
- Register in-store using our kiosks and NFC
Finally we assign the steps to be taken to achieve these goals. These steps are the actions. They might include;
Goal: Register on your smartphone in 3 easy steps
- Action 1: Revise necessary information required for sign-up(.5 days)
- Action 2: Understand smartphone use amongst user base (2-3 days)
- Action 3: Sketch some potential scenarios (1 day)
- Action 4: Test paper prototype with team members (.5 days)
- And so on…
Effectively this course highlighted the importance of communication and goal setting in UX, which are as important as wireframing, card sorting, persona creation, client management or any other skill set in UX. The ability to get as much information up front from your users/stakeholders/colleagues, and using their input to help shape how it will be carried out ensures ownership of the project is shared (and felt!) by everyone…
So go forth, ask questions, don’t judge, create goals and thus a team that’s in it to win it!
The final 2 days is on March 13th/14th - watch out for Part 2