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Avoid ready, fire, aim design by applying cross-functional lean UX principles

There is nothing more devastating to a project, and the resulting design, than to have a loosely defined target right from the beginning.

The Problem With Not Understanding The Problem

Achieving a clear understanding of where you are, where you want to be and understanding the space between those two points at the start is critical. When that understanding is established, the next vital step is to make sure everyone involved is in agreement on the problem space and vision for the design. Small misunderstandings and oversights at this stage of the game become increasingly amplified as they move forward. Fundamental misunderstandings may ultimately become large-scale failures. Basically, you have to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it before you do it. A small deviation from the bullseye at 5 feet turns out to be a huge deviation from the bullseye at 5 miles.

Illustrative sketch of arrow missing target

Validate Your Guesses Upfront

It is easier to change something now on the drawing board with a pencil and an eraser than later at the construction site with a sledgehammer. The initial vision for the design usually includes its fair share of educated guesses, which can be risky. Naturally, some guesses are more educated than others. The more speculative the guess, the larger the potential risk.

It’s important to have a malleable vision that can be shaped by research and early validation testing that focuses on the most risky hypotheses. A bad guess in the beginning will not be a problem so long as you do validation testing. Testing can turn a bad guess into a new understanding that can inform the vision and refine the target. Instead of only subjective-based opinions, we leverage evidence-based decision-making throughout.

Moving forward with a risky guess that turns out to be wrong can result in total failure. Why would anyone ever do that, you ask? Unfortunately, we have seen companies do that quite often.

Illustrative sketch of arrow missing apple on tree

A Well-Informed Solution

The velocity of learning is more important than the velocity to deliver. After shaping the vision with focused research and validation you will have a refined target to use for the design process. By using this information, and leveraging a cross-functional team in the solutioning process, you can increase your chances for success even further. The cross-functional team provides different viewpoints which can surface limitations early and generate innovative ideas. This also ensures the whole team understands the problem, knows the vision and becomes invested in the solution.

When design teams get ready and fire without careful aim they never truly hit the target.

In the rush to deliver a solution they deliver the wrong solution quickly – but where is the value in that? It sounds like common sense but in practice, so many projects rush past these critical steps only to waste twice the amount of effort later to fix issues that could have been avoided.

Even though your team may seem ready, make sure they take the time to aim before they fire. Trying to redirect a bullet in mid-air is not the best way to go.

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