Business Pivots

27 Mar 2019 - Tony Naccarato

What happens when you spend months creating, testing, iterating and stressing about a project just to have your company say, “Stop, we are pivoting,” and everything you have done is put on the back burning (meaning it probably will not ever see the light of day). As a product designer that has had this happen on multiple occasions, there are a few things that helped me come to terms with this and truthfully it isn’t all bad.

  1. Express your emotions
  2. Celebrate the small victories
  3. Reassess your position and goals

Express your emotions

I want to be honest and acknowledge something. I felt angry. I dedicated a lot of effort and time to this project, traveling to different places and engaging with people to create this product. We were addressing important problems and developing solutions that seemed solid. However, in the end, it didn’t really make a difference. I spent many nights reflecting on what I could have done differently. I was angry at myself, our leadership, and the company. I realized that feeling angry is normal; it’s a human emotion. But as I always tell my kids, what truly matters is how you handle those emotions. Will you let anger control you, or will you learn from it?

Celebrate the small victories

I had to reflect on what we achieved throughout the entire process and acknowledge the small successes that both the team and I experienced in our personal growth.

One of the small victories was realizing the value of collaboration. At the beginning, there were team members who were not involved in the initial discovery phase, which made it challenging to gain their support. I recognized the importance of having all team members (product management, product design, engineering team, and business stakeholders) engaged from the start. Each person’s perspective brings valuable knowledge and skills. Excluding them initially could lead to solving the wrong problem or proposing unfeasible solutions.

Another triumph was gaining a deeper understanding of the Directed Discovery process, which focuses on human-centered design. I learned how to effectively identify the problems we were addressing and develop solutions that made our users’ lives easier. I witnessed the significance of tools such as discussion guides, interviews, need maps, journey maps, profile insights, and thorough documentation in the discovery process. These elements provided powerful insights. Moreover, this process enabled me to feel more comfortable with testing designs and identifying the most effective tools and approaches.

Reassess your position and goals

During this period, I found it opportune to assess whether my personal goals were in sync with the objectives of the company. This prompted me to contemplate deeply on what I aspired to accomplish and whether continuing my association with the company would contribute towards attaining those goals. Personally, I had faith in the competence of the leadership, acknowledged the presence of individuals who were more knowledgeable than me, and shared an alignment with the new trajectory of the project.

In Conclusion

The process of becoming a better product designer was not easy. It required me to learn how to express my emotions in a healthy way, celebrate small victories, and give myself space to reassess my progress. But through it all, I discovered that I am stronger and more resilient than I thought possible.