August 26, 2013 - 6 comments

Stop Over-thinking. Take a Risk.

I started working on the web in 1999--before there were specialists in web, like UX, Content Strategy, and even Project Management. Back then, we came up with an idea and just ran with it. We didn't get caught up in our process, and we certainly didn't create deliverables that led to a full website or product. We dove in and got it done. Were we Agile? No. That wasn't a "thing" either.Something about "how we used to do things" is really appealing to me these days. Figuring out a problem and prototyping it seemed like the best way to get to a final product. Was it ever really done? No. But that was okay, because we were okay with iterations. Maybe we were agile (with a lower case "a").

Over the last 10 years, I've worked in places that handled building websites in different ways. The one thing they all adopted was a more drawn out, waterfall process. One that relied on one decision to lead to the next in chain of events, or milestones. Sign off on one milestone meant we proceed on the next step. Projects were carefully planned and build one highly crafted, well thought out deliverables like site maps, wireframes, and user flows. Each was iterated on at least 2 times, and was discussed to no end. How could they not be? Each was going to be finished forever and would dictate the rest of the project. It made sense. We were making smart decisions. But were we over-thinking things and, in turn, not being flexible?

I've come to realize that, while I have always been invested in a smart, measured methodology to get to a final decision or product, I have always been the person to over-think things. After all, I am a project manager. I'm risk-averse. I want things to go smoothly and I want to support a process that will support that ideal. Waterfall works! Why change it?

We need to change it because we wouldn't be doing our jobs as digital project managers if we are not supporting innovation. That innovation doesn't just come through a cool technology or a feature; it comes through creating and/or supporting new methodologies, processes, and workflows. Sure, it can be a bit unnerving. But, when you work with your team to craft a process that might be a bit out of the ordinary and you understand the related risks, you'll do everything in your power to take the steps avoid those risks.

To be clear: thinking about risks is never over-thinking. Not taking on a new process because you're too worried about the risks? Well, that could be over-thinking. But, when things get real, you need to be comfortable with the work you've taken on. No matter what you do, you have to be willing to take on some risk and open to doing something new.

So jump in: skip a sitemap, deliver a design first, design in code. You're going to learn a ton of lessons the first time you do it. That's how you'll get better and evolve your own process. It will be totally worth it.

Published by: brettharned in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,


Alicja Colon
August 27, 2013 at 8:03 am

Great post, Brett! Love the heart and passion for innovation that your article supports.

Jeremiah Ragsdale
August 28, 2013 at 10:26 am

This is something I’ve been thinking about for awhile. My freelance work is definitely “riskier” thank the work within my company. With my company, there’s the waterfall process and everything needs to be signed off along the way. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes not so much.

Sometimes you can go through discussing and re-working a project multiple times internally before turning it over to the client for approval, and it still misses the mark because of one thing or another. Project become over-thought and over-worked and then you find yourself deeper than necessary in the wrong direction.

Both areas have their pros and cons, and depending on the client, one process can be better than another. Sometimes it’s a mix. Either way, taking risks to perpetuate new ideas/opportunities as well as progress is just what’s needed.

Jon Thomas (@wjonthomas)
August 28, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Absolutely! The more unpredictable things get in the web world, the more we need to be open to trying new things (even on a per-project basis)! I wrote some similar thoughts about being stuck in a process. Would love to know what you think.

Larissa Scordato
August 28, 2013 at 1:54 pm

This is great – my team and I have been discussing this idea a lot recently. Websites should be thought of as living things. Iteration is just a part of life, so designing for imperfection and flexibility should be number one. (And it makes being their DPM even more fun!)

The Digital PM (@thedigitalpm)
August 30, 2013 at 4:15 am

I like the sentiment here, it’s important for us to evolve process.

But the challenge in evolving process is that it comes at a pretty steep price. No matter how much a team might be aware of the inherent risk of evolving a process, the reality is everyone will end up spending more time on the project than they should – how would they know otherwise? So whenever new processes or methodologies are introduced, just be mindful of who’s going to pick up the tab afterwards…

July 7, 2014 at 5:37 pm

Hi there, just wanted to say, I enjoyed this blog
post. It was helpful. Keep on posting!

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