Designers are solvers...or cat burglars.

20 Aug 2010 - 10:14pm
6 years ago
1 reply
722 reads

From my blog...dunno if this connects with anyone, and if not, I must be crazy...

...I Think I Know How Cat Burglars Feel...

I feel antsy.

Sometimes downright angry.

I walk around with thoughts spinning in my head.  I can't get them out, and I can't quiet them down.

It's that frustrated, anxious feeling you get when you can juuuuust about remember someone's name...but it never quite floats to the front of your mind.

I'm working on a project at work...something about delivering a corporate goal tracking system.

I KNOW there are too many variables:

* Too many parts to connect

* Too many people involved

* Too much too think about and too many problems to solve

I run down one street, thinking I have the solution...running through options.  scenarios.  routes I've seen before and routes no one's ever visited.

I consider workflows that would finally deliver the system every company needs...FINALLY!   A way to connect the dreams and aspirations at the top of the company hierarchy all the way down to where the pedal hits the metal and the rubber meets the road.  Where stuff actually happens.

I already know I'm trying to solve a human problem with a technical solution.  I've been down that road and barked up that tree...talked to management and managed all these processes before.  I'm not getting my point across and not listening hard enough.

I've been the guy having to build these reports.  I've been the executive wanting to know enough when I need to, but not as much as people can share.

And so I think.

And wonder.

I build towering applications.  systems.  extremely sophisticated, dynamically interconnected, yet profoundly intuitive my head...on my whiteboard...on the back of my hand.

I draw on napkins, daydream about forms, connected views and WYSIWYG editors with no translation required to complete.

And then...

...every few hours...

...sometimes one, sometimes four...

...I hear a click.

One small piece of the gigantic puzzle falls into place.

Today...I figured out how to let people track their projects the way they want to, to define the work they do on their terms, in their language, and without having to flip their minds 180 degrees to transpose their identities into execu-speak.  The trick is to provide a simple common reporting record with the three critical vectors required for cross-functional, inter-departmental, temporally-sensitive metrics, measures, goals, mission and vision rollup, tracking, trending and management.




Finally...a solution that, when followed to its 57 different alternate worst and best-case scenarios...doesn't require scrapping the whole system and starting from scratch!

What a relief.

god....FIVE MINUTES of peace, quiet, and success.

Time enough to take the night off.

Talk to people like I'm not compLETELY distracted...for a change.

Enjoy a good movie, and engage in conversation with the kids, my wife.  Maybe write a letter or two or 'phone a friend'.

Starting to feel better now, even though I have a long way to go.

It's that problem, see?

...there are so many interconnected parts. many problems to solve at once.

You'll go crazy trying to solve them simultaneously, because you have to chip off little bits at a time.  You can't solve big problems all at once.  You have to take little bites, find hidden nooks and crannies...weaknesses, chinks in the armor, so to speak.  Every problem has weaknesses.  Every problem, no matter how big, is just a fat rolling conglomeration of little problems, all requiring their own solutions that, together, in the right order and solved in the right way, get you through the big whammy of a conundrum.

Clear through to the other side and out the other end.

So that part's settled.

Whew!  What a relief.

Now...if only I could figure out how to automate the metrics so they are tied to these free-form, entered-at-whim projects tracked differently across every department.

Going to have to think about that one...throw it around in my head a's like being five and wiggling a loose tooth with your tongue.  You know it will come loose and pop free eventually...all it takes is a little wiggle here, and a little wiggle there.


I love heist movies, and particularly connect with those where the protagonist hunches in front of a combination safe with kid-gloves donned, stethoscope pressed to metal, spinning the dial...ever so slowly...first one the other his way through an invisible series of cogs, dials, levers and tiny gaps.

Every design project I take on feels a lot like that.  I have as many tools as the cat burglar at my disposal...wireframes, prototypes, card sorts, interviews, role-playing, personas, sketching, design patterns, industry guidance, proven research, my community, the list goes on...

And yet...when it comes right down to it...the really tough problems...the really insanely aggravating problems (the ones I REALLY love)...all come down to that simple, yet excruciatingly frustrating itch in the back of my head.

That loose tooth is still loose, yet more loose in certain spots.

The mountain I'm trying to move is a little smaller.

I'll get through it...eventually...I've done this long enough that this process takes hours or days now, not weeks or months.

I'll get through it.

Oh for the love of everything holy, though, I sincerely canNOT wait until that final tumbler falls into place.



(then on to the next problem...can't wait!)


21 Aug 2010 - 2:45pm

Yep, I can relate.

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