The rapid person, the alignment person, and the art of sparring with stakeholders.
tl; DR – Tamara’s axiom: Any tool that helps promote alignment around measurable goals, user needs and preferences – even if that alignment isn’t based on data – is a good thing.
The people who build things bring up a vast, invisible pile of assumptions about who their users are, what those people need, and how those needs should (and should not) be addressed by your company and/or project. These notions eventually collide with each other, like icebergs holding each other deep beneath the surface of the ocean. Disagreements, sentimental stances and political undercurrents send churn to the ocean floor.
So, what is the alternative? In the best possible scenario, data about users would be translated into some usable form (perhaps a data-driven one) and embraced by all. In fact, this does not happen for all the familiar reasons (no time or money for data collection, data is collected but not presented in a memorable or useful manner, data is presented in a memorable and useful manner but are overlooked, etc.) This is why, even after co-authoring the Persona Lifecycle books that focus on building a data-driven persona, I’ve never seen data-driven individuals as one in my 25-year consulting career. Not done as a standalone project. Instead, I find out how customers already Thinking about users and how to change their habits.
Personality purists insist that only good people are built from data. That’s certainly how Alan Cooper wrote about them, and he’s right: Personas are a great way to communicate important data about users. Sure, Personalities Made without The data really shouldn’t be called “personality”. (You can read Cooper’s article Defending Person for his feelings by watching his invention co-opted and abused. And if you’re doing any personality work, first running his prisoner asylum book.) I’ve already broke it. Rules, and, to me, “personalities” are realistic descriptions of people who communicate the “differences that make a difference” regarding a product.
If the biggest problem we all had with communicating with stakeholders and building empathy for our users was really a lack of data, then a data-driven one would be the way to go.
Data constraints don’t get in the way of great design and user-centricity, and the presence of data isn’t a guarantee either. Sometimes data makes things worse. There’s a big, or at least the first, iceberg-esque problem we have to conquer: invisible misalignment among key decision makers. Everyone on the team is making dozens of decisions every day, and everyone needs to be aligned, top to bottom, and side-by-side.
are the key decision makers*Always* misaligned.
It’s easy to assume that our bosses, grand-bosses and great-grand-bosses are all “on the same page.” We think they have crystallized on the goals of the projects, the metrics for success, the product/market fit and the potential for success for whatever you’re working on, and of course the people who are going to line up. Took a lot of time to clear. To buy and use your product.
The truth is, even if they align one at a time, the alignment doesn’t last. Every time two or more stakeholders meet, something changes and no one writes it down, and they certainly don’t constantly change strategies or tactics for product teams.
Misalignment means that each term in a stakeholder’s vocabulary may have a definition that is completely different than that of another stakeholder.
Guess which words stakeholders use a lot? “the user.”
If we believe that all stakeholders have “users” in mind, and that these “users” influence all conversations about your product, then it matters (a lot) whether these “users” match. If they don’t, what users want and end up is won over by the most powerful person in the room, and the definition of a user flexes between meetings (or even between sentences).
It is a given that these “users” are not realistic and reflect all kinds of prejudices, personal agendas and hypothetical problems that can Only can be solved by this product.
Why align around assumptions if they are guaranteed to be problematic?
Because in the real world, the choice of alignment around assumptions is not alignment around data. This is a misalignment around the assumptions.
My controversial hill-to-die-on: Even if everyone’s assumptions about users are wrong, Surfacing And rower Perceptions are critically important. The danger of misalignment is much greater than the danger of designing based on assumptions (meaning that the danger of Huge)Just like designing for everyone is more dangerous than designing for the ‘wrong’ personality.
If you can’t see the perceptions, you can’t kill them.
Perceptions essentially reflect biased, non-diverse and non-inclusive views about people. Aligning assumptions doesn’t solve any of these important problems. But aligning perceptions makes perceptions visible, and my argument is that making perceptions visible is a necessary first step If you want to change those perceptions in any way. That’s because the data can obfuscate the perceptions you can see, but it’s bad at killing the invisible perceptions.
My Experience This is how many teams, especially startups, become more user-aware during the alignment process, with or without data, thereby improving their products. Many teams are so far from thinking about how humans experience their products that creating and prioritizing personalities like “Nel New Member” or “Ronnie Returning Subscriber” is game-changing. Existence These individuals, and their many wants and needs in relation to the product, often do not need to be verified by data. The common language they create is a big part of their value.
Quick and Easy Ways to View Perceptions: Dan Browns fast people and other fast, collaborative workshops
How do we get the assumption on the table? Ask everyone in a room to talk. Better yet, use an activity that forces them to highlight their differences. Dan Brown’s Rapid Person Workshop is great because it forces everyone to codify and share their assumptions about users, with the added benefit of pre-scripted vocabulary based on data.
With Rapid Person Play I’m trying to address some of the challenges in the design process:
1. Encouraging Stakeholders Take into account specific user needs during brainstorming exercises
2. Encouraging Stakeholders clear their misconceptions about their users. – Dan Brown
In Brown’s Rapid Persona Workshop, “participants form one-sentence mad-lib-style personalities roleOne needand a challenge From a limited list of options. Anyone who’s heard me talk about creating measurable business goals for all projects will know that I’m already a fan of Mad Libs formats.
Brown makes choices for roles, needs and challenges in advance, and ensures that each is independent of the other. He bases the options on user research that he has already completed. Participants have to consider all combinations of roles, needs and challenges as they build their fast-paced personalities. Brown provides detailed instructions for this exercise in his article, so I won’t repeat them here.
If you’re interested in Rapid Persona, you can also read about Proto Persona workshops, which use a different, slightly longer process to create non-data-driven personas.
One Step Forward: Alignment Personality
There’s a reason I compare stakeholder perceptions to icebergs: They’re too deep and too hard to manage. I think everyone should try Rapid Person at the beginning of a project and definitely before brainstorming. I Too Think there are some issues that Rapid Person can’t solve (and I’m pretty sure Brown will be the first to strictly agree).
I created Alignment Persona (formerly Ad Hoc Persona) over the past 15 years to help senior decision makers create more user-focused product strategies. Where Rapid Persons are tactical design tools, Alignment Persons are strategic. They are the result of workshop-style meetings with project leaders that can take several weeks to several months to complete. The process makes perceptions visible and helps stakeholders align themselves around a collaboratively-created set of need-based individuals. We don’t just identify with perceptions – we work through them. Alignment individuals tend to be faster than traditional, data-driven individuals but they still take significant time and commitment. That’s why I like the idea of starting with Rapid Person, seeing if they help, and then creating an appetite for the clarity Alignment Person delivers.
Alignment persons are the result, but the actual work (and magic) is in the process. I guide decision-makers through well-organized and careful conversations. They think they are making alignment personas, and they are. They don’t realize how much emphasis is on the “alignment” part.
- Measurable Business Goals for the Project (in Mad Libs Format!) “Growth Reduction [important metric] By [actual number] In [defined time period]”It’s harder than it sounds.
- Identifying the current language used to describe “users” (in the organization and in the minds of key stakeholders). This part is easy.
- Identifying “I want…” and “I want…” statements to group “users”.
- Removal of candidate persons.
- Prioritizing individuals based on business goals, so you get the magic sentence: “Our goal is X. If we
ridiculously happy, we’ll never accomplish our goal.”
- Identifying data collection needs. Alignment can (and should) be regarded as a set of hypotheses for individuals to validate or invalidate – This How and when data can be used to restructure thinking.
If you feel that there are issues in your organization or project that are too big to be resolved by Rapid Person, an alignment person may be your next step. Deep stakeholder alignment relies heavily on uncovering the iceberg and completely changing the language used to talk about targets and users. The meetings address some of the politics of leadership teams and help experience professionals understand the ‘language of business’ to improve cross-team collaboration.
No matter which device you choose, the goal is the same: incorporate those perceptions into daylight. Then, and only then, can you align them, or better yet, re-size them based on the data.
The next challenge: remembering that alignment is not an event, it is a discipline.
Tamara Adeline has been in the UX field for over 25 years and co-authored personality life cycle Books. She was at Amazon from 2002-2005 and has been consulting ever since. He has honed the delicate art of aligning stakeholders without bloodshed. Contact him for any questions about alignment personality and strategy workshops, UX diagnosis and repair, personality projects, and leadership and team coaching.
thanks for doing and brown Awesome edit for this article, awesome edit for this article, and excel in the art of emoji, for inviting me to his podcast, for writing whatever he says.
And also thanks to Katie Jeminder who has been thinking about this stuff with me for decades.