Thursday, June 13, 2013

Poor Designing

It's that time of the year again!  Time to start blogging.

I have noticed a trend of "poor designing" at most places I have worked at.  Note that I am not saying "poor design" but "poor designING".  At the end of the day a product often turned out okay, but at varying expense (schedule or cost overrun, turnover, etc) due to bad designing.  Sometimes the end product doesn't turn out okay.  I briefly want to jot down what bad designing is. Maybe this will help you identify when your company is bad at designing--recognizing there is a problem is the first step.

Side note: By desigin I mean technical design.  As far as touch/taste/visual/feel design of a specific product, that is a whole different category.

Bad designing is when you don't have a medium to store your design.
Often times a great technical design comes to fruition, but it isn't stored anywhere.  Efficiency goes down the drain when the same decisions have to be re-hashed again and again via boring meetings.  Whether it is a requirements word document, a complex feature/specification/requirements tracking piece of software like DOORS, or set of power points, a solidified design needs to be documented somewhere.

Bad designing is when you don't plan ahead.
Any project is going to have a "design as you go" mentality.  There is simply no way to envision everything that possibly needs to be considered.  But to what level you design as you go can vary depending on how much time is spent on planning ahead.  And when you don't plan ahead, reject feature creep, and keep everything scoped, you have to design everything as you go.  Designing everything as you go = pain.  How can you predict development schedule and cost when the end-technical-design changes on a daily basis?

Bad designing is when key decisions are made by personality.
Key design decisions need to be made by things such as technical merit, trade studies (evaluating trade-offs between features, schedule, cost, marketing, etc) and a team of qualified individuals coming to a consensus.  Often though fundamental design decisions are made by whoever has the "strongest" (aka douchiest) personalities.  In a poor work environments, product life or death technical decisions are made in backrooms that exclude important schedule/cost/technical whistle blowers.  Design decisions have several stakeholders that each bring a consideration to the table.  These considerations--the pure data and strategy--should be what drives the decision.  Personality shouldn't be part of the equation.

Bad designing is when you don't recognize you are designing.
I've been in a meeting where everyone goes in circles about how bad things are that you have to spend so long to visit a technical aspect and tear it down (to discover it was more complex that what was originally assumed).  Spending 3 hours to have a large discussion that tackles a technical glitch discovered in a meeting that was supposed to take a half hour, or to dig into the we don't know what we don't know questions, is time well spent designing.  As I mentioned before, to not design as you go is impossible in any project.  Instead of rejecting the fact you are designing, embrace it, organize it, and accept it.

Designing is hard.  It requires good company culture, creativity, responsibility, planning ahead, and a process.  The design process is often overlooked by the thing that is being designed.  Everyone just cares about where the project is at on a given day, not how it is being developed.  I'm hoping that by listing what bad designing is you can take the next step on improving how you design.

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