Rian van der Merwe, Head of Product & User Experience Design for Kalahari.com, recently spoke at the Tech4Africa conference held in Johannesburg. His topic titled Breaking down Silos – Building better software through collaboration, was one of the best talks I have heard in an extremely long time.
Rian explains that the environments in which we work in impact the quality of the software we develop and deliver. All too often you will find that despite having a great development and design team, the quality of work produced is still not up to scratch. The cause of this is not the calibre of the employee but the environment in which they work in. These environments are categories by two silos. Lonely Silos and Functional silos.
Lonely silos consist of a development environment where developers work in isolation. They have no interaction with people outside their company and sometimes no interaction with those within their company.
Functional silos feature workers who are a part of a great working environment and work well in teams. They have structural workplaces and usually help one and other out. These workers however have no strategic say about projects and cannot make any decisions.
Identifying Design Monkeys and Tired Developers
Functional Silos harbour Design Monkeys. Design monkeys are designers that come to work tired and leave tired. They work has to be signed off by multiple people who do not understand the essence of design. They end up making multiple changes which results in the designer losing his or her creativity knowing that their design will not be implemented the way they envisioned it. Designers however are the not the only ones affected.
Breaking down silos
Not all project managers are developers or designers. Many have little knowledge on how to code or design. To break down these silos and prevent Design Monkeys and Tired Developers, management have to adopt a different strategy to handling their teams. Don’t tell your developers that their HTML needs to be more semantic. Don’t think you’re a designer and tell your designers that their design needs to be more Web 2.0. Everyone has an emotional response to things but giving feedback is crucial to running successful and happy teams. Learn how to give better feedback!
Remember, developers and designers are not your resources, they are your workers. Make sure you keep them happy by giving better feedback, trusting their judgements, creating better teams and simply breaking down the silos. If you manage a design or development team make sure you take note of Rian van der Merwe’s advice and break down your silos before you land up with Design Monkeys and Tired Developers.