Forget about titles - follow up

Maarten Arts

Maarten Arts

Published: 19 September, 2014

Gert-Jan wrote a blogpost about ‘Forget about titles’ yesterday, in which he writes about the responsibility of the team. He said that members of a team should help each other out when they’ve finished their work, even if that means they have to help out with work they’re not used to do.

I completely agree with Gert-Jan and would like to dive a little deeper. I’d like to talk about how forgetting your (and your colleagues’) title every now and then can greatly improve you, your team, your product and your colleagues.

The team

In this blogpost I’m going to assume that you work in a multi-disciplinary team. For example: A team that has a designer, a developer and a tester. Or a team with a designer, several developers and a data analyst. As long as there are several roles.

If you work in a company where these roles are separated into their own silos (and where teams hand off work to the next silo instead of working together) I suggest you look into Lean UX. Even if you don’t have a UX designer in your company.

Your team’s goal

The first thing you should realise is the goal of your team. Depending on the way your team works, your goals might get blurry after a while. Your client and stakeholders might make it hard for you to stay focussed on your goal. And some teams aren't aligned when it comes to the goal to begin with.

At Avisi the goal of each team is quite simple. We build products that accommodate users in accomplishing certain tasks. There are several things that we work on to accommodate our users in the best way possible. Some examples on things that improve the experience of the users are: security, functionality, user interface, speed, testing, etc. You get the point.

The goal of our teams is to build the best user experience for our users. And this is obviously not only the task of the designer, this is something the whole team accomplishes together.

When to forget about titles

When you realize that all team members, regardless of their title, are working on the same goal, it’s a lot easier to forget about titles every once in a while. There are several situations in which you could, or sometimes even have to, forget about titles:

1. You encounter work that’s in no one’s job description

Not every team has the luxury of having all trades present. Especially in small teams, you’ll sometimes have to forget about your title for the good of the product. Your team might lack a designer, marketeer, data analyst or tester for example.

This is a great opportunity to learn new things and broaden your horizon. Don’t worry about making mistakes in this area, it’s usually better to try a few things than not doing anything at all.

2. Your workload has dropped

In multi-disciplinary teams it’s best if you and your colleagues can work in parallel. But sometimes you’ll have to wait on someone before you can continue with your work. In these cases, as Gert-Jan said, you shouldn’t just sit there and wait. “You’re a team. Do stuff together. Take responsibility. Together.”

If you can't find anything to do, don't just sit there and do nothing. Go sit next to someone and give your feedback. Or help out by trying to solving a problem together.

3. A team member can’t keep up with the workload

If, as a designer for example, you notice that the developers can’t keep up with your designs, see if you can help them out. I’m a designer and I like to get my hands dirty with some HTML, CSS and the occasional Javascript. I won’t be as fast as my colleagues and they’ll have to revise my work every now and then, but they appreciate me helping out and taking some of the work-load off.

Why to forget about titles

The above situations sketch some great reasons why forgetting about titles can be good for the team and for the product. But there are several reasons why forgetting about titles is great for the individual as well:

1. Learning

In our line of work, we always have to learn new things to keep up. At Avisi we encourage learning new things. We do this by organising monthly ‘tech-days’ where we invite people to talk about new technology, business or processes. We’re encouraged to go to conferences and workshop. And Avisi is more than happy to pay for any courses or trainings we’d like to follow.

Not everyone is the same of course, but I love learning new things. It keeps my work exciting and improves my quality and input in a project. This is not only good for me as an individual, but also great for the experience we want to offer our users.

I also like to broaden my horizon and learn about completely different subjects. It doesn’t hurt, for me as a designer, to know a little something about programming and coding for example. Because of my interest in this subject during college, I can make better design decisions when I know that the development team doesn’t have a lot of time to implement something.

Another great example is one of the teams I regularly worked with in the past 6 months. They were interested in my work as a designer, so I involved them in the process and showed them how I work. This took away a lot of the ‘magic’ in design and allowed them to do some of their own. Later, when I was working on a different project, they asked me my opinion on a few of their design ideas. Instead of waiting for my return to the project, they continued the work themselves and only asked for my validation.

Invest in employees


2. Hobbies and Passion

Some people might surprise you with the things they do in their leisure time. A lot of people have a hobby, or even a passion, that might turn out beneficial for your product. This could seriously be anything.

A number of people here at Avisi have a big passion for coffee and are quite skilled in handling a coffee machine. So when a client comes to our office, they'll occasionally make them a nice cup of cappuccino. And as Avisi is always very proud of their great coffee, this is good for our image and for business.

So if you're working on a new product and you're about to put some information online, there might be that one designer that's passionate about shooting video's or that one tester that turns out to be a great writer in the weekends. Forget about their usual titles and you might be surprised.

3. Happiness

I believe that forgetting about titles every now and then might make you and your colleagues happier. It gives you the opportunity to break away from your every day tasks, allows you to learn new things and makes it possible to apply hobbies and interests.

This might not be the case for everyone, but it works really well for me and my team.

Don't forget to think

I'd like to end this blogpost with one last argument about why you should forget about titles every now and then. Some people get so hung up on titles that they seem to forget to think for themselves.

I was asked, for example, to drive more traffic from this blog to the Avisi website. I noticed that the menu at the top didn't have a menu item that leads to the Avisi website. I could've asked one of our developers to add the menu item, but seriously, this is Wordpress. This is such a simple task, anyone with basic Wordpress knowledge could do this. So instead of asking anyone else, I headed over to the Admin section and changed it myself.

The same goes for small design changes in an interface. If you find out that it makes more sense for your users to replace Yes / No radio buttons with a checkbox, don't ask your designer to make wireframes for this, just replace the thing.

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