Hi @Jellybean — I've used the same technique(s) and activities in initial sessions with clients for 20+ years. The goal here is to take the conversation away from the product, and redirect people's focus to what matters — to users and to them. What constitutes value and why.
You start at the beginning. Describe UX as a Value Loop: it's the result of strategic research activities that ensure (1) value is perceived and received by users, so that (2) value comes back to the organization in terms of ROI (money made or saved).
In terms of what I DO in those sessions, activities center around three questions I always try to answer in the very first meeting with a new client, which I’ve outlined in my book and in the YouTube video series below. They are:
- What’s Worth Doing?
- What Are We Creating?
- What Value Does it Provide?
The very first question helps shed light on the other two. You have to determine what the right problems to solve are — not just the obvious ones people are talking about or what they’ve asked you to do. Until you figure that out — along with that the desired outcome should be, the value loop between value to users and ROI back to the organization, it’s premature to suggest any kind of improvements.
I go into detail and share the exercises I use here; it’s a 7-part series starting with this one:
What I’ve learned over the years is that very rarely is the problem that’s identified at the very beginning of the process the actual problem. It’s part of the actual problem, but usually it’s really a symptom.
So even if you have obvious issues with the interface where people are confusing actions, or the primary action isn’t obvious or the path forward through a process isn’t obvious. But a lot of times there’s something that is a lot smaller and a lot more distributed and a lot more widespread that is really causing the abandonment or the data input inaccuracy or whatever it is that’s happening.
So to me, asking “Why?” is the probably the most healthy thing you can do. When somebody says “We need to do this, this and this”, my very first question is always “Why?” The exercises and methods I talk about in these videos is my means to getting those answers.
That information gives you direction in terms of scope, activities, deliverables, etc. It tells you what you know, what you don't and what you need to find out in order to design and build something that satisfies the Value Loop.
The purpose of these initial working sessions is to make sure everyone with the potential to influence the outcome has input along the way. But beyond that, the actual tactical work you do is entirely dependent on what you learn about what’s actually worth doing and what will provide value to people. It’s also dependent on the way that organization works, how its teams are distributed, what the pecking order is, etc….point: not all of that is for you to decide.
Everything is an assumption until proven otherwise, so every possible feature, function and perceived business goal or user need are all GUESSES that need to be validated through research, prototyping and testing.
That's probably more than you asked for, but I hope some of it is helpful to you — and good luck!