Claim Where You Are Headed

Part two of my series of reflections prompted by the Udemy Seth Godin Leadership Workshop. 

Nothing like some journaling time to list out possible failure points. 

Nothing like some journaling time to list out possible failure points. 

This was a good one. It has lead me to a real vulnerable place of evaluation. For those of you not enrolled in the course (you should check it out), the second lecture discusses why leadership is so hard. Seth’s argument is that “Leadership is difficult because it might not work.” He implores us to claim where we are headed by painting a picture of the vision in order to enroll people to join in the journey. I find that vision-setting is also helpful as a decision-making tool. To claim one thing is to push another out of scope. That aspect might be the most valuable to me as I establish a trajectory for my future work. 


What about your leadership journey might not work?

  • What about your journey might not work?
  • Does describing the chasm in front of you make it more likely that you’ll fall into it?


My Journey: building systemic strategic planning and research into the client-facing design process. 

What I am trying to accomplish is a challenge because it requires a deep dive, full systems approach. This is a response to the modes of process that say deliverable-oriented design planning is enough. But, often that is not enough to solve user problems or ensure efficient business viability. 

So, how might we use strategy and research to ensure that the objective of a design endeavor centers around a whole-systems approach to empowering the user (real, complex human beings)?

What might not work (an excerpt from my list):

  • Deliverable-focused briefs are the norm. 
  • This process involves ambiguity and following where the research leads. This can be an uncomfortable process and a challenging business case to argue. 
  • There seems to be a misunderstanding between the roles of strategy and execution. Many people and organizations say want strategy but when I speak with them about work, they actually want to start with the execution and discuss the process of problem solving the intended deliverable—I don’t consider this strategy. 
  • The challenge of scope management. 
  • The propensity of this type of work to open pandora’s boxes and uncover organizational inefficiencies and breakdowns can lead to getting bogged down in organizational structure and operation systems. 
  • Quantifying the value of this work and justifying the act of stepping back to analyze the system. This effort doesn’t make money during the process but sets the stage for better business and a higher quality of engagement with users. 
  • The lack of clarity on the role of UX research and what it entails. The industry allows for discrepancies between what we actually do and what clients will pay for, this means rarely ever ‘do’ our real skill set or utilize the full potential of our role.
  • Falling into a ‘master of none’ scenario by trying to accomplish too many things at once. 
  • The problem of how to create a streamlined, scalable process or decision-tree of my skills and offerings that are easy to market. 

Does describing the chasm mean falling into it? Definitely not. Only through an intimate investigation of the potential pitfalls can I then investigate how to solve them. Items on this list are not reasons to avoid embarking on this journey but necessary viability criteria that must be validated. 

It is imperative to dive into the chasm of the impossible to build the ladder out into this new territory. The exciting part is that people are hungry. User-Centered Design and UX are becoming well-circulated terms. The next step is debunking the actual use of them and pushing for a deeper level of engagement—not a bumper sticker buzzword. 

Describing the obstacles can be the first step in managing scope. Deciding which of these ‘failure points’ to tackle will eliminate others and drive me to some much-needed focus.  

As I put forth struggles I've experienced, they resonate with things I hear from the broader UX community. I would love to start a conversation. Do you resonate with these challenges? How do you mitigate the broad spectrum of expectation that comes with an ill-defined role that is largely not agreed upon?

Karen Whistler