Handling a blow!



What a frustrating day! - After 1 year of researching, interviewing, wireframes, low fidelity prototyping, medium fidelity prototyping, it’s all come undone due to two senior stakeholders deciding “We need to do this… we need to change that”. The outcome is what they are asking for is based entirely on their design ideas, and what they think is good.

I work on multiple projects, and I knew that this would be a difficult one because of the people involved, however it is still a blow to see a years work being discarded at the last minute… I think the most frustrating thing is that these stakeholders made themselves available once in the past year, and gave positive feedback to the low fidelity prototypes, before that meeting and since the meeting, their availability was limited - and I had to deal with other less senior people who were delighted with the progress and direction.

I am not precious, or hung up on designs. However, I find the ignorance of the progress (and perhaps my naivety at not demanding regular check-ins) really frustrating!

Have you had to deal with stakeholders who don’t understand a user centred design process, or the value of research and iteration??


I feel your pain.

Yes, I have had similar experiences, and they have shaped how I present findings, and perhaps sadly, my loyalty as an employee in general.

Because while there is a certain degree of “I could have done this differently, or argued this more persuasively, or found allies to help promote this way of thinking, or delivered that presentation differently”, I’ve also learned after having worked in a couple of organisations that were large, and suffered from extraordinary political tensions between departments and individuals, that sometimes it’s simply not possible, as one person, to effect the change that is necessary. I had the realisation after one contract where 18 months of work was shelved because someone upstairs had a change of heart, that I am not an organisational change consultant with the authority to restructure a corporation or remove incompetent managers from positions where they wield the power to complete screw up everything.

When you’re faced with a situation that is that frustrating, you can choose to fight, fold, or walk away. It took me swallowing some professional pride to walk away from that one project, but on the flipside, becoming a freelance consultant was one of the best decisions I’ve made, and it freed me up to embrace a whole range of opportunities that I wouldn’t have been able to if I’d stayed in that role—opportunities to work with amazing new clients, as well as do things like team up with Luke to start this website, for instance.

Hope that helps. Good luck!


Thanks Matt.

The jump from fulltime employee to freelance is a scary step for someone who has been a fulltimer their entire working life - but it is a path I’m sure I’ll take eventually!

I posted this at the heat of the moment - I spoke with a colleague after, and to cut a long story short, I got the impression that there would be no winning here, not even a small win. They basically just wanted someone to put their requirements on a screen, and present it as a job well done.

I’ve politely edged myself away from this project, and I’m working on other things - same organisation, but we have lots of projects going on!


Dean and Matt, I feel both your pain!

And having recently experienced a few related situations, I’m pleased to know I’m not alone.

I was particularly interested in how you mentioned key stakeholders not staying engaged with the process and then coming in at the last minute and imposing their views. I’ve had a project recently where really, my client did everything right to try to get the appropriate stakeholders involved. But they didn’t participate until the last minute, when they expressed serious concerns about the direction. Consequently, the project plan had to change and more money was spent (wasted), although I think we’ll still get there in the end (ableit with this unplanned detour).

I wonder: is it a problem in any sort of project, not just UX? Perhaps all long term projects are derailed by key decision makers who pop in at the start and at the end but not at critical milestones along the way? Doesn’t make it any better, of course, but may soften the blow a little, as it highlights the root cause as different personality types and behaviours (as opposed to problems with your/our communication, process etc).

As an external consultant I find this problem especially difficult to tackle, as I have basically no power within the organisation. I can’t tell my client to clamp down on no-shows, or refuse to accept their requests because they come so late in the process! To manage, I often try to stay disinterested in the final outcome, but this isn’t a particularly nice way to spend one’s working life. Especially as UX tends to attract those of us who really care about the user!


they didn’t participate until the last minute, when they expressed serious concerns about the direction

That infuriates me also. And to answer your question, yes, it’s any project, not just UX.

I work as a community manager, rather than a UX professional. Lately I’ve been managing large web migration/redesign projects for branded communities and I’ve been experiencing this situation. I think that people don’t really pay much attention to things along the way if they’re busy, but then when they suddenly realise that things are going to launch they realise that they’d better read through all your prior communications.

I love having autonomy over projects, but it’s frustrating when this is the outcome.



I have to agree it happens a lot- the worst is when it happens because it didn’t align to some idiot’s personal agenda :frowning:

And I agree it can happen to just about any project- not just design. I know someone in a completely different industry who went through the same thing with an 18 month long project. In that case the derailer had ignored all previous communication and had refused to participate in the process until the very last moment when they hated everything and threw my friend under the bus. There was nothing he could do about it.

As for the fight, fold or walk away thing, I’ve been through all three. It’s hard because my natural instinct is to stand up and fight and I’d love to walk away tomorrow but I can’t so I’ve learned to fold. Sometimes it’s the only way to preserve your sanity.


Funny to see this bumped almost a year later… I leave the organisation, to try new things in fifteen days :wink:

I have worked on a few projects since, and I have started to notice more and more that I was not just performing tasks as a UX lead, but I was actually performing the roles that I would expect of the product owner.

When the UX lead has to chase up the product owner, then you know something isn’t quite right!


Hilarious! I’ve been so tired lately I didn’t even notice the date and time of the original! :o

I just “Oh No! That’s terrible! Are you OK??” hahahahah :eek:


[SIZE=12px]Hi Dean,[/SIZE] [SIZE=12px] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=12px]My apology to commenting now on your post of April. I am a new member and unable to resist to comments due to similar pain.
Most probably, late participants creates nuisance.

What I do is, I keep on updating to these “important" people by sending a brief updates time to time or meeting them occasionally, about current progress and what would be achieved in the next planned step and how we are working towards a business goals etc. Also ask, whom should get a feedback besides them on outcome. If they are providing valid feedback it gets incorporated else asked specific reason to out of scope comments.

I do not afraid to mentioned that last minutes updates may be costlier for the product and they would be responsible in terms of waste of efforts, planning, time, money and frustration of stakeholders.

My best level, I politely take efforts in conversation, to deliver the better product.

Hope it may give you another approach. In my opinion changing project will not always help.