De-prioritized? Stop Blaming Design Leadership

Monish SubherwalDesign Mindset and PhilosophyLeave a Comment

Has this ever happened to you:

  • Your project you spent days on – gets canceled.
  • Your manager wants you to stop what you’re doing and work on something else.
  • The designs you worked on gets de-scoped and now is MUCH less usable.
  • New design leadership comes in, and now you are told what you worked on was not important.

If so, what do you do to remain SANE? These are the issues that drive designers nuts and have driven me nuts before.  But as time goes on and you mature as a designer, you learn how to deal with this sort of “unstable” corporate culture.  There is no power in being a victim and playing the victim role.

I’ve managed to stay very positive despite such hiccups that ALWAYS occur.  How?  Here’s how:

1.  Expect it to happen.

I’ve heard people get so angry and jaded that their project got descoped or the work they were doing is no longer needed (or won’t be built).  I get it.  However, designers need to understand that this will happen.  Business pivots or priorities change.  

Designers get angry because (1) They get very attached to their work and think everything is about them.  (2)  They forget they are a part of a business who has to make decisions without them.

The reality is:  it’s not worth the company’s time for you to work on things that don’t matter anymore.  If they did have you continue working on non-important stuff, you’d probably be out of a job.

2.  Understand you are here to save the company time and money.

I wrote an article a while back on the ROI of design.  Design is often used to cut down on product development costs.  After all, if I have a designer in place, I won’t have to have my developer make ugly unusable products.  Design allows you to plan and then build.

So in other words, we’re planners.  No one gets upset when the gant chart gets rewritten – but they do when their design gets de-prioritized or canned.  

Know that you are there to help the company save time and money.  If the company wants you to work on something else – work on that.  It’s in your interest and the company’s to work on things that matter.

3.  Stay grateful.

People are always unhappy when they find themselves out of a job, happy when they had a job, and then unhappy again when their projects get descoped or deprioritized.

I always take on the attitude that I am here to serve.  I was hired to help the company, not so I can win awards and bask in my glory.

Your ego typically gets bruised when people tell you to shift your focus or stop doing what you’re doing.  So stay grateful, be happy you have a job and work on #4 (next section).

4. Be a part of the solution – not add to the problem.

Getting angry and blaming others doesn’t work.  Instead, have conversations with design leadership and management about design churn (if its happening too much).  Don’t blame them, but share with them that it’s important to work on things that get shipped.

Seek to understand why design churn is happening (decisions which could be happening many levels above you) — and seek to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.  Perhaps it’s better if your team works in smaller shippable chunks.  Or they work in a lean way and help validate and prove ideas – before spending lots of time and the company’s money on design resources.

When you start to blame others – it’s time for you to go.  Management doesn’t want negative people and you don’t want to remain negative either.  Better to move on then remain sour.

5.  Remember nothing goes to waste.

Life is not an outcome, it’s a process.  Working on a project isn’t ALL about the output, but also about the process of working together and creating something.  Even if a project gets canned –  it wasn’t a “waste”. You develop yourself and grow in the design process — irregardless of whether your product ships or not.

What are your thoughts?

I hope the above ideas help you stay grounded when change happens.  And it will happen, I promise you that.  Share your thoughts below.

The trick, I find, is to stay empowered and not get demoralized.  It’s helpful to understand that change is a part of any company’s culture — and that is OFTEN outside of your control.  Sometimes your hard work and initiatives are left to dust.  You can plant in the spring and things are going well and BAM!  a meteroite smashes down and kills your crops.

It can happen.  And it sucks. I know.  But learn how to deal with those catastrophes.  Your attitude is the one thing you can control.

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