An IntroductionHi, Reader. A note before I get started. This series is because people don’t talk about the importance of workflow, in the digital trend websites. They talk about “innovation”, “gamification”, and “UX”. This year, the new cool things to say are “responsive design” and “wearable tech”. (Sorry, in advance. I’ll probably keep showing my cynicism towards buzzwords). Marketers and digital strategists never really say things like “chain-of-command” and “proper documentation”. Or “proper client facilitation”. When THOSE can be the keys to actually executing great products. (I’m not claiming that I learned these on my own. For readings on these pertinent topics, please read Things That Are Brown, A List Apart, 37 Signals’ Signal VS. Noise, Boxes and Arrows and MIX Online.) So here I present my “workflow lessons” series. This is for the people who love the workflow. This is for those who care about the grind.
Don’t Punch Above Your Weight
You know a simple two-step way to solve all project issues?
1) Tell the person directly concerned. Yes, to their face.
2) Having done Step #1 (and you must do Step 1) — if that doesn’t resolve or clarify the situation — inform your boss, so he/she can tell that person’s boss.
Really. It’s that simple. You’ll be surprised at how many things those two steps can actually solve.
You know what the hard part is? Working up the guts to do (1).
It is tough to talk to a person directly. Especially about work conflict.
But it’s necessary in a multi-discipline office. Talk to that marketing person you had a slightly heated exchange with, during a Client meeting. That front-end developer who feels that your deliverables are lacking. That designer who feels that the UI won’t work. That account manager who you feel wasn’t able to provide a complete brief.
All best to be talked to. To their face.
Yeah, seems like it needs a bit of charm. And you’re right, it sometimes does.
Better than charm, though, what those situations really need are thoughtfulness and respect.
I know. It sounds cheesy. Trust me on this.
You can define thoughtfulness as the sincere desire to improve a project; and respect, as an appreciating what each person’s opinion brings to the table.
My most recent example would be: today, I received a call from one of our new Account Officers. He called to update me about a meeting he had today.
The meeting, technically, wasn’t great. The Clients argued in front of him and they even challenged his proposal.
But the beautiful thing was that Clients realized that they still didn’t agree with each other on a clear direction, or even name, for the project they wanted us to work on. The Account Officer also got them to clarify why they think they needed what they were requesting for.
That call was one of the sweetest testimonials to how I’ve helped the team workflow, if that’s even a thing.
Clarifying with people – to their face – has real value. You can’t go about presuming things like direction and decisions, when you don’t know whether they’re clear, or formally approved.
Believe me; just. don’t.
Why is Step 2 necessary?
Because, in real life, conflicts happen. People don’t always listen to other people.
The reason isn’t so important, really. It could be a rational reason, e.g.
- The other person is too busy to listen
- There’s a conflict of interest
- You were talking about something that’s beyond your responsibility
Or, the reason could be…unreasonable:
- You’re friends with someone the other person hates
- The other person doesn’t know who you are
- The other person is PMS-ing.
The point is: the two of you didn’t get along. More specifically, you didn’t arrive at an agreement that would solve or benefit the project.
In situations like this, regardless of the reason, AS LONG AS YOU DID STEP 1, do the most objective thing possible in a corporate setting:
Tell your boss.
Really, this is the most objective solution to a work issue, after you’ve told the person to their face.
It’s a manager’s job to keep their team members in check. It’s your boss’s job to respond to your work concerns, and to alert another boss to discipline or clarify with the boss of a person on another team.
Don’t do your boss’s job; or the other person’s boss’s job. They’re there for a reason.
If you can’t go to your boss for objective issues that concretely affect the projects you’re working on, that’s a problem.
Of course, be prepared to objectively explain why there was a disagreement, and how it impacts the work output. AFTER TRYING STEP 1.
Once you’ve done Steps 1 and 2, and things still aren’t resolved…
In terms of emotional attachment, ok. Not work commitment. You’ve done what you could to resolve the issue, and maintain your sanity.
Please try my two-step process. Next time something crazy comes up in your office. Really. This is better than gossip, or waiting for bosses to realize gaps and conflicts. The world needs a bit more honesty, anyway.
*Note: You may also read up on the scrum methodology, which hinges on working teams having daily meetings expressing their accomplishment, to-do-list and issues to each other. Interesting stuff, if you can actually make it work.