When Projects and Plans Go Sideways

We’ve all experienced plans that don’t go the way we expect. In my current role, first as a UX Content Strategist, then as a Design and Content Specialist, I’ve experienced more sideways experiences than in any other role.

Here’s what I do when I need to make lemonade out of lemons.

What happened

Here are a few challenges that required a different way to work:

  • Because of time constraints and pressures, teams churning out work requests discovered it was easier to copy older, less polished documents.
  • Model teams weren’t receptive to copy improvements.
  • Staff turnover

Addressing problems with patience

It’s easy to get sucked into a cycle of frustration. And while I had my moments where I wanted to throw up my hands in defeat, I pressed on.

I hosted a workshop about Voice and Tone.

I presented seminars about ways to create more useful and usable user stories.

I provided tools to evaluate documentation so teams could measure growth in their respective areas.

I developed a design system to promote consistency.

I redesigned the platform using the U.S. Web Design Standards.

Admittedly, this is the biggest adoption challenge because of the constraints. In the current system, developers can’t change a button without it affecting the entire framework. That said, it’s always important to think aspirationally: What will the next system look like? How could it improve?



Positive outcome

The verdict is still out on many of these things, but so far, the Design System has made some traction. I continue to make headway with the content standards. One manager was ready to adopt the heuristics with his team (and then he abruptly left the company), and now I am beginning to educate another manager about using that tool through interviews and discussions.

While the verdict is still out on many of these tools, the one lesson I’ve learned through this experience is that even when a work situation looks dire, there’s always something you can do. Remain positive, and keep trying! Sometimes, it’s only a matter of time.