I was browsing an industry job board when I stumbled across a post seeking an Urgent Designer. The post caught my attention, and not in a good way. It was about one paragraph long, and contained very little information about requirements or desired candidate qualities. The post got me thinking about urgency, and how poisonous it can be if left unchecked.
We all know how it goes: Good, fast, and inexpensive, pick two. I’d like to eliminate one from that equation: fast. There is a net loss in having speed prioritized over quality in a project. For context, I’m talking about production work done in a web environment. The same argument could probably be applied to several different situations, but I’ll speak to my experience here.
Spending enough time planning a project is key to obtaining the best possible results. In an ideal world, there are no budgets or deadlines. We live in a world where we promise to deliver results, on time and within budget. This system works well until urgency is introduced.
Distraction is a common form of urgency, and leads to unfocused results. People who practice the craft of web building require adequate periods of focus in order to produce quality results. This can mean hours or days of uninterrupted and focused work.
Rushed work feels bad. Lower morale can lead to uninspired work. Uninspired work leaves loose ends, encourages mistakes, bad usability, overlooked use cases, and an overall poor experience. All of this because someone felt rushed through their process. What’s particularly dangerous about this path is that it is prone to the snowball effect. Small errors seem much worse to begin with in context of the overall schedule. As the time-line is compressed, mistakes seem magnified. Problems may appear larger than they are. Time can be wrongly allotted. This is a dangerous cycle.
Time is pushing on people who are pushing on quality. Eventually, something has to give. The good news is that urgency can be avoided.
Meticulous planning before, during, and after the development phase of a project is essential to eliminating urgency. It’s also important to include people involved in the development phase in each round of planning.
For the round of planning preceding the development phase, define and agree on specific deliverables. Establish an official production schedule that works for everyone. During the production schedule, ensure everyone is made aware of blocking issues. Be vigilant about reporting delays, but if possible, avoid daily status updates. Adequate commenting in commit messages serves as a good progress log. Appropriate issue tracking software can fill most of the blanks. At the conclusion of the production phase, hold a debriefing. Go over what went as planned, anything that might have proven problematic, and how that might be handled in future iterations.
When everyone is aware of important project details, surprises are minimized. Expectations are set accurately, and schedules remain predictable. Urgency: ancient history.