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Difficult Conversations in Creative Environments ~ IA Summit 2009
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Information Architects work in environments that demand close collaboration with other people, primarily clients and colleagues. Design teams of any size need to manage the logistics of the design ...

Information Architects work in environments that demand close collaboration with other people, primarily clients and colleagues. Design teams of any size need to manage the logistics of the design process, collaborate with each other to solve complex problems, and communicate those ideas effectively. Clients also exert pressure on the design team, presenting the design problem and vetting potential solutions. Successful senior designers and team managers must know how to navigate these waters delicately. Every one of these activities–from clarifying requirements to presenting design ideas to walking through revisions–requires working with other people. Every task on a design project has some element of communication and collaboration. And these infinite touchpoints within the team (designers, managers, stakeholders, and clients alike) represent risks to the project: one misstep and the project can come to a screeching halt.

This workshop is for information architects to help them understand and improve the core communications skills for working with teams and clients. Junior information architects seeking advancement will benefit from this opportunity to explore the crucial skills that separate them from senior designers.

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  • exceptional presentation..convinced me to have a hardlook at my business model..brilliant
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Difficult Conversations in Creative Environments ~ IA Summit 2009 Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Mastering Difficult Conversations
    • Dan Brown & Chris Detzi
    • EightShapes, LLC
    • IA Summit 2009, Memphis, TN
  • 2. Introductions
  • 3.
    • About Us
      • Who we are
      • Why we’re here
  • 4.
    • About You
      • Your Name
      • Your Occupation
      • Why you’re here
  • 5.
    • Our Agenda
      • Introductions done!
      • Best Practices 15 minutes
      • A Model 15 minutes
      • The People 60 minutes
      • The Situations 60 minutes
      • Sample Scenarios 30 minutes
      • Summary of Techniques 30 minutes
  • 6. Let’s Start with the Basics the Basics
    • Communication Best Practices
  • 7.
    • Be Positive
    • Engage Your Audience
    • Empathize
    • Lighten Up
  • 8.
    • Rephrase the negative statements
        • Negative = "We can't start until we get requirements"
        • Positive = "Please give us the requirements so we can start."
    • Rise above the Naysayers
    • “ We can’t do that.”
    • “ That’s way to complicated.”
    • Always Start with the Good
    • “ What I like about this so far is....”
    • Openness over Defensiveness
    • “ I think that’s a great idea. Perhaps we can talk about it how it might work?”
    Communication Best Practices Be Positive
  • 9.
    • Personalize the Message
    • “ Great Question, Molly .”
    • “ Jason , what do you think about that?”
    • Repeat the Questions You’re Asked
    • “ So the question is .... Did I get that right?”
    • Position Your Questions for Success
    • Use Humor
    Communication Best Practices Engage Your Audience
  • 10.
    • Know the situations, not just the people
    • Listen and Seek to Understand
    • Don’t be quick to dismiss (even if you disagree)
    • Respond with an acknowledgement of situation / emotion
    Communication Best Practices Empathize
  • 11.
    • Humor can be a powerful communication tool
    • Reduces anxiety and hostile moods
    • Establishes a positive environment
    • Helps “gauge” the audience
    • Provides a way to make a point, without attacking
    • Does not have to mean insincerity or frivolity
    • Make it relevant
    • Be on the lookout for material
    • Prep & Plan (don’t assume it will just ‘come to you’)
    • When in doubt, point to yourself
    Communication Best Practices Lighten Up
  • 12. A Site Map of Communications
    • A model for interpersonal interactions
  • 13. Difficult Conversations :: © Copyright EightShapes, LLC 2009
  • 14. Difficult Conversations :: © Copyright EightShapes, LLC 2009
  • 15. Difficult Conversations :: © Copyright EightShapes, LLC 2009
  • 16. Difficult Conversations :: © Copyright EightShapes, LLC 2009
  • 17. Difficult Conversations :: © Copyright EightShapes, LLC 2009
  • 18. Difficult Conversations :: © Copyright EightShapes, LLC 2009
  • 19. Difficult Conversations :: © Copyright EightShapes, LLC 2009
  • 20. Difficult Conversations :: © Copyright EightShapes, LLC 2009
  • 21. Difficult Conversations :: © Copyright EightShapes, LLC 2009
  • 22. Difficult Conversations :: © Copyright EightShapes, LLC 2009
  • 23.
    • Common behaviors in creative environments
    They’re the People that You Meet that You Meet
  • 24.
    • What makes people
    • hard to work with?
  • 25.
    • No Direction
      • They can’t tell you what’s wrong
        • Symptoms
          • Float with the wind
          • Broad, non-specific or emotional feedback
          • Fear conflict
        • Techniques
          • Be mindful of goals
          • Separate yourself from the issue
          • Ask good, specific questions
  • 26.
    • Misdirected Passion
      • They feel strongly about the strangest things
        • Symptoms
          • reaction not commensurate with issue
          • taking things personally
        • Techniques
          • See other perspectives/agendas
          • Pick your battles
          • Let others have their say
          • Set expectations and explain context
  • 27.
    • Inconsistent messaging
      • They talk out of both sides of their mouth
        • Symptoms
          • “That’s not what we discussed...”
          • “I don’t recall saying that specifically....”
          • “Well he told me...”
        • Techniques
          • Bite your tongue (well, nibble it)
          • Pick your battles
          • Validate and capture messages
  • 28.
    • Unwilling to admit ignorance
      • They get stuff wrong
        • Symptoms
          • outputs show misunderstanding
          • “Let me try that again!”
        • Techniques
          • Deflect responsibility
          • Avoid distractions
  • 29.
    • No Vision
      • They don’t know where they want to go
        • Symptoms
          • Willing to listen to any direction
          • Can’t separate good from bad
        • Techniques
          • Ask good questions
          • Find out what stifles their vision
  • 30.
    • No Structure
      • They are disorganized
        • Symptoms
          • unaware of project plan
          • missing deadlines
        • Techniques
          • Define action items
          • Set expectations and explain context
  • 31.
    • No Strength
      • They are easily taken off course
        • Symptoms
          • a new problem every week
        • Techniques
          • Avoid distractions
          • Set expectations and explain context
          • Remind of implications
  • 32.
    • Not Available
      • Eighty percent of success is showing up
        • Symptoms
          • missing meetings
          • not responding to email
        • Techniques
          • Set action items
          • Set expectations and explain context
  • 33.
    • Tunnel Vision
      • Other things get in the way of their view
        • Symptoms
          • refusal to compromise
        • Techniques
          • Ask good questions
          • Let others have their say
          • Tell a good story and align it with audience
          • Deflect responsibility
          • Set expectations and explain context
  • 34.
    • Prioritize reputation
      • Rather save face than admit they're wrong
        • Symptoms
          • (might come with other habits, like lack of focus)
        • Techniques
          • Letting others be right
          • Picking your battles
          • Setting action items: how do we fix this?
  • 35.
    • Poor communication skills
      • They can't articulate concerns
        • Symptoms
          • rambling messages
          • difficult to map/contextualize messages
        • Techniques
          • Ask good questions
          • Define action items
          • Find out what’s stifling
  • 36.
    • Poor use of communications tools
      • They love love love love love email
        • Symptoms
          • long emails
          • detailed project correspondence in IM
          • tangents in meetings
        • Techniques
          • See other people's perspectives
          • Find out what stifles them
          • Redirect to another tool
  • 37.
    • They’re the people that you meet
    • No direction
    • Misdirected passion
    • Inconsistent messaging
    • Unwilling to admit ignorance
    • No vision
    • No structure
    • No strength
    • Not available
    • Tunnel vision
    • Prioritize reputation
    • Poor communication skills
    • Poor use of communication tools
  • 38.
    • The situations we face and
    • techniques to master them
    It’s Called Work Work
  • 39.
    • What situations do you face?
  • 40.
    • The Challenge
      • The size of the ‘stakeholder’ or interested party list is unwieldy and dramatically inhibiting progress.
    • The Techniques
      • Identify the Influencers and speak directly to them
      • Don’t ask questions of the group, ask of specific individuals
      • Provide channels for individual feedback, but publish for broader consumption
    Managing Bumps in The Road (Circumstances) Too Many People Involved
  • 41.
    • The Challenge
      • The performance of one or several team members is jeopardizing project success
    • The Techniques
      • First identify all of the positive aspects of the performance
      • Avoid explicit and implicit personal attacks
      • Coach don’t point
      • Use Positive language
      • Express confidence about abilities
    Managing Bumps in The Road (People) Poor Team Member Performance
  • 42.
    • The Challenge
      • The project is facing seemingly insurmountable complications, losing support, and overall confidence is waning
    • The Techniques
      • Get out of the Weeds
      • Reminders of Why we’re here, What we’re doing
      • Change the conversation; focus on Path Forward
      • There’s Light at the End of the Tunnel
    Managing Bumps in The Road (Circumstances) Losing Momentum
  • 43.
    • The Challenge
      • Clarifying and rationalizing design choices when challenged
    • The Techniques
      • Establish “common practices” before design exercise
      • Pick your battles
      • If supporting data isn’t there, explain the hypothesis
      • Know Your why’s
      • Make sure stakeholders are on the ride for the whole way
    Communicating Design Defending Decisions
  • 44.
    • The Challenge
      • Communicating Design to varied interests and perspectives
    • The Techniques
      • See Others Perspectives / Agendas
      • Identify the Influencers and speak directly to them
      • Get Your Story Straight; Prep with the ‘Whys’
      • Pick Your Battles; know your give points
    Communicating Design Design Reviews
  • 45.
    • The Challenge
      • Creating a shared understanding of scope, timelines, and accountability for a complex, multi-faceted design project
    • The Techniques
      • Prepare Questions for Success...and ask every one of them!
      • Expose the Elephants
      • Clarify & Set Expectations
      • Confirm and Validate those Expectations
    Planning Design Resources, Scope, & Timelines
  • 46.
    • The Challenge
      • Divergent ‘stakeholder’ (client) interests are inhibiting progress
      • The internal team is not in agreement on the design direction
    • The Techniques
      • Work from a foundation of agreements
      • Listen; understand the scope of the disagreements
      • Focus on the positive aspects of each of the ‘approaches’
      • Remove personal interests from the equation
      • Take it offline, if necessary (ideate with each person separately or collectively)
    Managing Bumps in The Road (People) Resolving Conflicts
  • 47.
    • The Challenge
      • Divergent ‘stakeholder’ (client) interests are inhibiting progress
    • The Techniques
      • Work from a foundation of agreements
      • Encourage discussion to arrive at the root disagreement
      • Ideate with each stakeholder (collectively or separately)
      • Focus on the business; take personal interests out of the equation
      • Forward Focused
    Managing Bumps in The Road (People) Resolving Conflicts (among Stakeholders)
  • 48.
    • The Challenge
      • The proverbial finger is pointing at you relative to lack of progress or missteps
    • The Techniques
      • Avoid the Situation through Proactive statusing and risk cataloging
      • Don’t point -or deflect- the finger
      • Facts and Objectivity are key
      • Change the conversation; focus on path forward
    Managing Bumps in The Road (Circumstances) Defending Status & Progress
  • 49.
    • The Challenge
      • Despite all of your best efforts, the project has failed
    • The Techniques
      • Communicate the reusable parts, not everything that was done was for naught
      • Remind people of the good work that is still relevant
      • Remain confident and upbeat
      • Outline the Lessons and keep them at the ready
    Managing Bumps in The Road (Circumstances) Project Failure
  • 50. Planning Design Resources, Scope, & Timelines Communicating Design Design Reviews Defending Decisions Managing the Bumps in the Road People Resolving Conflicts (internal & stakeholder) Poor Team Member Performance Too many people Circumstances Defending progress Losing Momentum Project Failure The Situations That We Face
  • 51. Sample Scenarios
  • 52.
    • Situation: Poor Team Member Performance
      • You have a client meeting on Wednesday to present a draft deliverable. You’ve arranged a meeting with the IA responsible on Monday to discuss progress and conduct a review.
      • The IA arrives at the review meeting without the document, claiming she/he didn’t have a chance to work on it.
    • Characteristics: Doesn’t admit ignorance, Poor communication skills
    Role-Playing » The Missing Deliverable The Missing Deliverable
  • 53.
    • Situation: Defending Design Decisions
      • Your client sets up a meeting between you and another stakeholder. You’ve heard of this person, but haven’t ever met with him/her before.
      • Your client wants you to walk this person through the work done to-date. Your client says that this person is paying for part of the project, and wants to get a sense of what’s going on.
      • During the meeting, the new stakeholder pokes all kinds of holes in the design.
    • Characteristics: Tunnel vision, No structure
    Role-Playing » The Late Stakeholder The Late Stakeholder
  • 54.
    • Situation: The Design Review
      • You're reviewing a design but the feedback you're getting is broad, and non-specific. When it is specific, it's centered around inconsequential details that don't help you move the design forward in a meaningful way.
      • You can sense from the body language and tone of the comments that there's some confusion or uncertainty about the design but they can't seem to articulate it well and they may not be comfortable with providing direct, potentially damaging feedback.
      • What do you do?  What tactics / techniques do you use to facilitate a meaningful discussion?
    • Characteristics: No Direction, Poor Communication Skills, Misdirected Passion
    Role-Playing » The Evasive Critique The Evasive Critique
  • 55.
    • A summary of skills
    • and techniques discussed
    Tricks of the Trade the Trade
  • 56.
    • Tricks of the trade
    • Telling a good story and aligning it with your audience
    • Seeing other perspectives/agendas
    • Picking your battles: knowing when to turn on the passion
    • Setting expectations/context
    • Setting action items: the art of what do we do now?
    • Avoiding distractions, even if timely and relevant
    • Deflecting responsibility
    • Asking good questions
    • Letting others be right
    • Letting others have their say
    • Encouraging discussion
    • Finding out what stifles people
    • Channeling other people
  • 57.
    • Thanks!
      • Dan Brown • dan@eightshapes.com
      • Chris Detzi • chris@eightshapes.com