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Julie Stanford

If you’re hiring a UX firm, you probably need a therapist

therapist

No, you’re not crazy to be hiring a UX firm. That’s a smart move! But, we’ve noticed that when companies hire us, they tend to be in a state of intense organizational flux and team drama. While some drama is predictable, normal, and addressable, too many companies ignore critical organizational issues until it’s too late to address them.

Clients — that is, you — are usually in one of three states when they hire us:

1. The product sucks, and the folks who built it are still there.

The feeling when it hits you: your core idea is good, but your product sucks — and the people who created it are still sitting next to you. Awkward. In addition to hiring us to fix your product, you are planning to fire and replace some of the people who built it. Everyone is on edge, and then we come waltzing in all smiles and bright ideas.  How will your team dynamics affect the success of this endeavor?

2. You’ve been brought in to provide new leadership and direction.

This state is an advanced version of the previous one. You’ve just been hired to shake up a team that needs it. You’ve brought on some folks who you’ve worked with before, and you’re in the process of weeding out rot. Your arrival has polarized the team: some people are excited, while others are grumpy and may soon quit or be fired unless they can change their attitudes and adapt to your new vision. Meanwhile, you’re still hiring, so people parachute in intermittently as the project is progressing. People with all kinds of disruptive ideas want to quickly “make their mark” (read: pee on something). The team dynamics create awkward politics and whiplash in decision making.

3. You’re a new team or company.

You’re a brand spanking new team that’s come together to build a brand new product that you’re really excited about. But reality is setting in and you’re realizing you don’t agree with everything in the marketing roadmap, and things aren’t gelling magically the way everyone had in mind. Are you going to find a way to come together as a cohesive team? Or, more likely, is someone going to end up suddenly leaving in a huff?

In all three cases, your product needs help…

but so does your team. And guess what? Your UX design firm is not a group of therapists, organizational change consultants, or team builders. We know a lot about product innovation and the design process, but we can only help you if your team is receptive to being helped.

I can’t tell you how many companies have spent a lot of money with us to, only be derailed by core, human, internal team dynamics issues. The good news is that, once you recognize the monkey on your back, you can do something about it.

So look around and assess the psychological healthiness of your team. Be honest, and if it looks like things are dicey, don’t just plow forward hoping it will work. Address the issues directly and consider hiring an organizational consultant. If you can’t afford a consultant to help your team work together more effectively, read some of the great articles in the Harvard Business Review on team dynamics.

Whatever you do, don’t put your head in the sand and hope that fixing your product will fix everything. It won’t. Before you fix your product, fix your team. With or without a therapist.

 

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