October 4, 2011

Awareness of Design or Anything For That Matter

A lit flashlightImage via WikipediaUnderstanding Design or anything really is the same challenge. I was in a customer meeting last week and it just hit me. Design is like anything we do or try to do; like any craft I'm trying to learn I can't skip over steps. There is this model I use when looking at how to best support someone in their career development. Going back to my customer meeting, my model helped me realize the challenge I was in front of when I put my development model against the situation.

The Model

In my model there are three levels I can coach someone on. After doing an assessment of a situation with someone on my team, I will support them in their job along the following lines: 
  1. Skills - Do they have the skills for the job?
  2. Motivation - They know how to do it, but they are not doing it.
  3. Awareness - They don't know they need to do it and they don't know how to go about it.
In this model, how I rank the person 1, 2 or 3 will tell me the magnitude of the task and investment I have in front of me to help them. Skills is the easiest; it's helping that person acquire the skill(s) through training, books etc. Motivation is more difficult than Skills. Motivation speaks to someone who is not motivated to do what is part of their job description for one reason or another. Serious discussions and better understanding of the expectations are in order and most of the time a solution is found and things are on their way. Awareness is the most difficult one to crack.  Awareness talks to someone who is not aware they are not aware. I can sit there and explain it to them and they will see it, but then they won't know really how to go about executing. Their lack of awareness keeps them from understanding the importance of that job - of seeing that this task needs to be done for the well being of the organization. A lack of understanding of the business as a whole and its high level systems for example will keep people from seeing where the work they are doing fits in. 

Going Back to My Conversation with My Customer

Our conversation was about a product my customer believed needed design. Their motivation was that the product needed to look the same and perform the same functions so it would be easy to use across several devices. So they didn't understand the user models and they were not clear on their business goals.

To them, speaking with me is a matter of skills that I have that they need. To me, speaking with them is a matter of awareness of design and user centric design. We're coming at it from the two ends of the spectrum.

On Coaching for Awareness

In the case of coaching and helping people along, very often I find myself in the same situation with the people coaching me. I ask how do I do this or that? And then they say "it's more complicated than that Fred".  Over several coaching sessions I eventually get it - the Ah ha! moment - and then I realize I know just enough to know I don't know much! And this is exactly what Awareness with a big A is my friends!

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