Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Defending Design Decisions

On defending your decisions...

"Every interaction designer gets put in this position: you present your design and the client doesn't like it. They may have a strong idea about an alternative approach or they may just not like your idea. It's easy to get your dander up. It's easy to stop listening as soon as you hear the objection and start formulating your defense. There is a temptation to entrench, especially when you strongly disagree.

But, before I go on with this post, please take a moment and read these first:

Merlin Mann's Tips on Becoming a Better Listener
Scott Berkun's Why Smart People Defend Bad Ideas
Merlin Mann’s post may cover familiar territory, but it is amazingly easy, in the heat of a moment, to forget these principles.

What I like about Scott Berkun's article is that it works from two perspectives: both as the smart person defending a bad idea (which he admits doing) and also being subject to the defense of a bad idea.

So your best defense starts by breaking an argument down into pieces. When they say “it’s obvious we need to execute plan A now.” You say, “hold on. You’re way ahead of me. For me to follow I need to break this down into pieces.”

First, nothing is obvious. If it were obvious there would be no need to say so. So your first piece is to establish what isn’t so obvious. What are the assumptions the other guy is glossing over that are worth spending time on? There may be 3 or 4 different valid assumptions that need to be discussed one at a time before any kind of decision can be considered. Take each one in turn, and lay out the basic questions: what problem are we trying to solve? What alternatives to solving it are there? What are the tradeoffs in each alternative? By breaking it down and asking questions you expose more thinking to light, make it possible for others to ask questions, and make it more difficult for anyone to defend a bad idea."   continued ...   (Via iathink)

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