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Re: [agile-usability] Serendipity on anthrodesign mailing list

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  • Natalie Hanson
    Hi all - Since I am the list owner and moderator for anthrodesign, perhaps I can chime in here à especially in regards to Jon s comment The nerve Adrian
    Message 1 of 15 , Jun 21, 2013
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      Hi all -

      Since I am the list owner and moderator for anthrodesign, perhaps I can chime in here … especially in regards to Jon's comment "The "nerve" Adrian struck was related to the idea that doing "research" without a hypothesis or a goal is something one should be paid to do. There are too many "researchers" that give the field a bad name in industry."  Yes, there is lots of lame research, just as there is lots of crappy agile … but that's not an accurate representation of what they are frustrated about.  

      Anthrodesign is a listserv and community focused on the use of ethnographic methods in business.  Those methods have the reputation of being long and expensive (though it doesn't need to be the case!).  Those who participate in the list are extremely frustrated with Lean experiences / practitioners that they've encountered.  In some cases they are conflating Lean and Agile, but the theme is basically the same … which is … how can they execute meaningful, valuable research an an environment which is focused on cost-cutting?  My answer is that if Lean is being practiced properly that it's way more nuanced than that.  I referenced a blog post I wrote, which is a sneak peek at a book chapter on the same topic - http://www.nataliehanson.com/2013/02/21/lean-ux-again/.  Those who have spoken up feel that US businesses are committed to the cost-cutting, efficiency part of Lean and not more.  Adrian and I have been trying to help them understand that Lean has some wonderful synergies with UX, and that it's not all bad.  Unfortunately, that hasn't been their experience.  

      Regarding the research … in an agile environment I'm learning that it is extremely challenging to deliver insightful, usable research.  So rather than just criticizing, how about working together to make all members of the team effective contributors?  I currently manage a centralized UX team in a software development organization; the engineers with front-end development as their primary focus also report to me.  Right now in my team we're experimenting with some blending across roles (design/dev for HTML and CSS) but also research and design.  I am trying to put our researchers out in front at R0 to look a the work practices of specific user types so that we can effectively write their user stories.  And the designers are doing more of the incremental interviewing and validation so we stay connected to the release and sprint activities.  It is not at all obvious how to do it well … but I am fortunate to work in a team where there is a lot of mutual respect and discussion and continuous adjustment so that we can make sure that all the people on the team are adding value with their unique abilities, and at the same time making clear the UX contributions to what ships.  But that's only possible because we're working towards those improvements across all organizational functions.

      Natalie


      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
      Natalie Hanson, PhD
      ndhanthro at yahoo dot com

      On Jun 21, 2013, at 2:29 am, Jon Innes <jinnes@...> wrote:

       

      The tech industry is full of people who get paid to do basically useless work, including research that leads to nothing of value. They aren't accountable for anything tangible. They claim to be trying to improve things, but can't measure their impact.

      That said I agree with Tim that lots of successful products are the result of unexpected insights. When I worked for Scott Cook of Intuit his favorite example of this was Malcom McLean's invention of the metal shipping container which was based on his observations as a truck driver. But that's insight of an entrepreneur/designer working in non-research role, which is different than being a paid researcher on staff that produces nothing that ever amounts to value. 

      The "nerve" Adrian struck was related to the idea that doing "research" without a hypothesis or a goal is something one should be paid to do. There are too many "researchers" that give the field a bad name in industry.


      On Jun 20, 2013, at 12:40 PM, Tim Wright wrote:

       


      On the other hand, lots of successfull products have been created by accident. The person who noticed them might not have had a "product idea or market in mind" - but they saw something and realised that there was one.

      My favourite was the person who was trying to cure malaria and accidentally invented a new colour - Mauve.


      Tim


      On 20 June 2013 20:51, Adrian Howard <adrianh@...> wrote:
       


      On 20 June 2013 09:46, Jon Innes <jinnes@...> wrote:
      I think we actually agree here. Understanding customer's problems is the key to design. That's not what I was talking about. I just question folks who do research with no idea how it applies to anything.

      If you don't have a target market or product idea in mind, then you should stay out of business.

      Can you give some examples of what you thinking about then - since I'm not sure what you're arguing against? Something seemed to have struck a nerve ;-)

      To me it feels like you're tilting against a straw man... I don't know of anybody in industry (in academia either come to that) who just able around observing things with no purpose in mind. 

      Cheers,

      Adrian

      --
      Subscribe to the latest Agile & Lean UX news here > http://is.gd/KREt5S






    • davidkallen
      Natalie, I agree with everything you wrote in that post, with one adjustment: Your company are fortunate to have YOU lead the team, creating a climate where
      Message 2 of 15 , Jun 22, 2013
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        Natalie, I agree with everything you wrote in that post, with one adjustment: Your company are fortunate to have YOU lead the team, creating a climate where mutual respect exists, and cross-functional innovation towards a common goal is invited. That is the climate needed to effectively blend the long-term research with the tactical agility and deliver high-quality products quickly. And this climate does not occur by accident. It is created by leaders like you, supported by team members who believe in that common vision. And it can only continue if your management has the vision to support you.

        Our team struggles with the same challenges of blending the different worlds of the UX/IA designer with the agile software developer. Even the UX/IA world has its own blend of hypothesis-driven science and intuition-driven art and aesthetics. Is it any wonder this is hard for teams to achieve? We must blend art, science, business, and engineering into a unified product. To do this, we must blend together teams whose passion ranges across all those areas. It's a miracle that we pull together and achieve this in even small part.


        --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, Natalie Hanson <ndhanthro@...> wrote:
        > Those methods have the reputation of being long and expensive (though it doesn't need to be the case!).
        ...
        > I currently manage a centralized UX team in a software development organization;
        > … but I am fortunate to work in a team where there is a lot of mutual respect and ...
      • Adrian Howard
        ... I m going to push back at that a little bit. How much of that problem is due to the research or the researcher being useless. How much of it is down to the
        Message 3 of 15 , Jun 22, 2013
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          On 21 June 2013 08:29, Jon Innes <jinnes@...> wrote:
          The "nerve" Adrian struck was related to the idea that doing "research" without a hypothesis or a goal is something one should be paid to do. There are too many "researchers" that give the field a bad name in industry.

          I'm going to push back at that a little bit.

          How much of that problem is due to the research or the researcher being useless. How much of it is down to the organisation being structured in a way that cannot effectively apply the research.

          As I said before - research without *any* goal or hypothesis feels kind of straw mannish to me. Can't recall I've ever seen it. What *exactly* are we talking about here?

          Folk who are just researching "the customers"? 

          In which case, when done well with the right environment, that more general ethnographic work is stupidly useful. It can be where the new product ideas and hypothesis come from.

          Where it's completely useless and wasteful is when it's done in a context where it's not going to be used. If the work that I do just ends up as a shiny 100 page report on the CEOs bookshelf then it's a waste of time and space - however intellectually satisfying.

          Sometimes that report sitting on the shelf is the researcher's fault. Sometimes it's the organisation's fault. Most of the time I would imagine that it's a bit of both.

          So are the problems you're seeing with "research", "researchers" or "organisations" (or all three)?

          Cheers,

          Adrian
          -- 
          adrianh@... / +44 (0)7752 419080 / @adrianh / quietstars.com
          Subscribe to the latest Agile & Lean UX news here > http://is.gd/KREt5S

        • Jared Spool
          ... Researchers are not immune to Sturgeon s Law. 90% of all research projects, in my experience, are crap. They are poorly formulated, poorly executed, and
          Message 4 of 15 , Jun 23, 2013
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            On Jun 22, 2013, at 3:47 PM, Adrian Howard wrote:

            As I said before - research without *any* goal or hypothesis feels kind of straw mannish to me. Can't recall I've ever seen it. What *exactly* are we talking about here?

            Folk who are just researching "the customers"? 


            Researchers are not immune to Sturgeon's Law. 90% of all research projects, in my experience, are crap. They are poorly formulated, poorly executed, and poorly integrated with the rest of the organization.

            Well done research (the remaining 10%) starts with a focus. Sometimes the focus is narrow ("We need to see if this feature is implemented the best it can be."); sometimes it's broad ("I wonder what we could do to help our customers better."). Whether narrow or broad (or something in between), the focus guides the research.


            Where it's completely useless and wasteful is when it's done in a context where it's not going to be used. If the work that I do just ends up as a shiny 100 page report on the CEOs bookshelf then it's a waste of time and space - however intellectually satisfying.

            Sometimes that report sitting on the shelf is the researcher's fault. Sometimes it's the organisation's fault. Most of the time I would imagine that it's a bit of both.

            So are the problems you're seeing with "research", "researchers" or "organisations" (or all three)?

            Much of the poorly executed research I see happens because the organization's reward system and culture have not been adjusted to accept it. If an organization isn't set up to take the research and its results in (which are separate things), then you get the result of the shiny report on the CEO desk. (Ironically, the best research never has a report to put on the CEOs desk, which is fine, because the CEO was involved in the work throughout.)

            You can't separate the problems with being with "research", "researchers", or "organisations", in my opinion. They are deeply integrated.

            Jared



          • John Schrag
            ... When I teach the basics of doing research (usually to people who have already decided to put out a survey) I recommend starting with two questions: What
            Message 5 of 15 , Jun 23, 2013
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              On 2013-06-23, at 9:30 AM, Jared Spool wrote:
              Researchers are not immune to Sturgeon's Law. 90% of all research projects, in my experience, are crap. They are poorly formulated, poorly executed, and poorly integrated with the rest of the organization..


              When I teach the basics of doing research (usually to people who have already decided to put out a survey)  I recommend starting with two questions:  What decisions do you need to make?  What information do you need to make those decisions?  Only after those two questions are settled, do I help them figure out how to collect that information.  I'm frequently amazed at how much resistance there is to setting a clear research question, even by the people who are asking for the research.  (And almost always a survey is not the right way, but they're "easy to do". . .)

              John
            • Adrian Howard
              Hey Jared, On 23 June 2013 14:30, Jared Spool wrote: [snip] ... This. Times a bazillion. ... Indeed - in fact I ll just copy n paste something
              Message 6 of 15 , Jun 23, 2013
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                Hey Jared,

                On 23 June 2013 14:30, Jared Spool <jspool@...> wrote:
                [snip]
                Much of the poorly executed research I see happens because the organization's reward system and culture have not been adjusted to accept it. If an organization isn't set up to take the research and its results in (which are separate things), then you get the result of the shiny report on the CEO desk. (Ironically, the best research never has a report to put on the CEOs desk, which is fine, because the CEO was involved in the work throughout.)

                This. Times a bazillion.
                 
                You can't separate the problems with being with "research", "researchers", or "organisations", in my opinion. They are deeply integrated.

                Indeed - in fact I'll just copy'n'paste something I wrote yesterday on the anthrodesign list

                ---- [snip start] ----

                I no longer judge my success on the quality of my findings. 

                I judge it on the effect of my findings.

                It doesn't matter how glorious the insights. If they don't end up making the organisation, the product, the world better they're a failure. If management, developers, designers, whoever ignores 'em - that's my fault. Not theirs. I've not laid the groundwork for those results to be used effectively. I've delivered something they cannot use or apply. I've solved a different problem from the one that needed solving. 

                I'm not saying that if an organisation cannot accept or work with "deep" insights I shouldn't do the research. I'm saying that in that situation the first order of the day is to help the organisation move to a place where it can get value. 

                Until I do - doing the research is waste.

                ---- [snip end] ----

                Cheers,

                Adrian
                -- 
                adrianh@... / +44 (0)7752 419080 / @adrianh / quietstars.com
                Subscribe to the latest Agile & Lean UX news here > http://is.gd/KREt5S

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