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Productivity in UX projects and knowing how to differentiate a marathon from a sprint

23 June, 2020

Achieve the highest quality in the shortest possible time, the great pending subject. Today we will tell you what the term productivity means to us in the context of the strategic design of digital products and services.

When someone starts their Redbility journey, they realize that organization and planning is essential to fit in with the team’s culture. Is so important that in our onboarding process during the first week, we put a lot of emphasis on how we organize projects. At first it’s difficult, we are not going to deceive ourselves. You think that everything is over-organized, but suddenly one day you start working on a project so long that it lasts for months or even years and at that moment, you understand the value that it has and apply it the rest of your professional life.

At Redbility, we blindly believe in productivity, organization and planning. Therefore, we are going to give you our point of view on how to improve productivity in strategic design projects from the most general to the most particular.

Objectives, planning and coordination

When you work on large projects where there are teams – from different companies – from Research, Business, Marketing, UX, UI, Front and Back, it is important that everyone knows what each department is doing at all times and the dependencies between tasks.

One of the most important things for coordination within the team is to choose a tool according to your team and way of working. At Redbility we take this very seriously. Every time someone finds a tool that they think can optimize the workflow within the team we see it among everyone and if it fits, we test it with a real case to see if it works for us or not and later we share the conclusions. Nobody makes unilateral decisions about the software we’ll use to avoid the loss of information in the projects.

We don’t use many but the ones we do use we always try to keep them up-to-date, this is essential to avoid communication problems within the team and with the client, and more in this times of homeoffice. Currently, we use Basecamp for communication with the client, Smartsheet for project and resource planning and ClickUp for the organization of internal team tasks, among others.

It is important to take into account that sometimes our clients don’t know how to use these tools. We must help them in the adaptation process and teach them since the beginning of each project so that they always see it as an advantage and not as an obstacle. Making a small investment of time in explaining our way of working at the beginning can avoid us losing management hours in the future.

Organization during the project

The way of organizing is different depending on the type of project. We cannot pretend to organize a year and a half project as a two month project. Depending on time and complexity, the level of organization and practices are different. It seems obvious, but sometimes we find an optimal way of doing things for a large project, we think we have found gold and we repeat it over and over, wasting time in other situations or things that are not so relevant. Each project and each team is unique.

At Redbility we provide different types of services: Strategic Consulting and Research, Product Design, Service Design, CRO projects, Innovation and Digital Transformation and Brand Strategy. Each project is totally different, but they all start with a research phase in order to develop the most appropriate strategy and define the best solution.

Our methodology: all and none

The Redbility team has had the opportunity to work with large and not-so-large companies, each with a totally different methodology and way of doing things. In some cases, we work with Design Thinking, Lean Startup and / or Agile techniques. Depending on the client and the requirements of the project we work in one way or another but there is always something in common: our way of working is based on exploration. The first thing we always do – at a minimum – is to do research on the archetypes, the market and the business to soak up all the solutions that exist to similar problems.

Afterwards, we gather with the team members and try to open up different paths and generate a lot of ideas, so later a person can focus on investigating those options more closely. During this process some ideas are discarded and others are generated and occasionally that person will have checkpoints with the rest of the team so that when verbalizing the work he’ve done, it will help and generate debate, and even sometimes dismiss the ideas.

In this way we are not left with the first idea that comes up, it usually arises from refining and exploring them proving that they also work in complex situations. And if we end up with the first idea we had, that is not because we had not explored other solutions.

“Be water my friend. Bruce Lee already said it”

How to tackle projects to be more efficient

Don’t marry any methodology. The methodologies are to facilitate our work, not to limit it. At Redbility we are not going to talk about any specific one, basically because we do not believe in fixed frameworks. We have our own reference framework that serves us as a basis for not starting from scratch but in adaptation is virtue. Each client comes with a framework to which we must adapt, with a different team structure and a different way of communicating. Keep what is good about each project you work on and apply it – whenever possible – to the rest.

There are levels and levels of self-organization. On the one hand, there are profiles that do not spend a minute organizing their day and all they do is react and put out fires. On the other hand, there are those who use tools to “track” / block time or spend hours listing everything they have to do and fall into the curse of “Analysis paralysis”. Here we are not going to give you concrete advice on what to do to be more productive, for that is ThinkWasabi or Kenso who have been talking about productivity for years, but there is a basis that we consider fundamental in any job. It’s a matter of knowing how to prioritize and respect the time of others – yes, that includes going to a meeting prepared and ending it with next steps and closed responsibilities. If one day it does not come to you, invest that time in another relevant task. Set milestones to achieve objectives that help you and your team advance as soon as possible.

Being productive and efficient is a matter of knowing how to prioritize and respect the time of others.

Marathon or sprints?

It is important to be organized in all projects, but the longest ones especially require an initial investment of time in organization and estimation. There are times when we can save time and others when we cannot.

For example, at Redbility we (almost) always present our progress, we (almost) never deliver progress without seeing it with the client. This is crucial for them to understand why we have made that type of decisions and help us save a lot of time in managing feedback. It is one of the best investments you can make in a long project.

In general, most of the projects we do at Redbility tend to last several months, but from time to time we get the opportunity to work on much shorter projects, in which the client asks us for help because they need to get results quickly. You have to know how to differentiate these moments, it is not always easy for us and we must distinguish and prioritize them in a different way. In these type of projects prevail results to fail, test quickly and iterate, and not perfectionism.

You have to know how to take off the mindset of marathons and get down to work to do the best sprint of our lives. The most productive professionals are those who know how to adapt, differentiate and prioritize the objectives according to the situation and focus on the most important tasks.

You have to know how to get rid of the long distance mindset and do the best sprint of our lives.

We are not going to change your habits with a post, but we can try to make you see that it is more important to reach results than the path you go through to reach them. Organizing your day in a more or less rigid way is something you do because you want to. If you have a more executing profile, try to get ahead of yourself, and be proactive to reach those results, if they give you 1 day to do a task and you can do it in less, do it, it will surely benefit you in the near future to have saved that time. If you have a more leading profile, mark tasks to guide the team and learn to delegate.

As you can see, in general it is more a way of thinking than a way of doing things.

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