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Remove Proxies to People

In all cases, try and deal with the primary source of information, don’t rely exclusively on proxies to people: augment or replace proxies with direct involvement whenever possible to get better overall communication.

Pain Points

  • Despite adding in multiple layers of system matter experts, teams still build the wrong things
  • Requirements take months to generate
  • Teams complain about the scarcity of information in the work they’re trying to complete
  • Development and QA teams constantly feud over what a particular requirement means and how it should be implemented

Benefits

  • Direct access to information enables faster, and better, decisions
  • Direct access to users enables teams to understand how the software works, and how it’s broken
  • Fewer layers means faster access and less interpreted/misunderstood information
  • Information power brokers are pushed aside and real work can progress

What Does it Look like?

First off, what is a proxy? In this context, we mean that an analyst is a proxy for a user; a manager is a proxy to an executive; a manager is a proxy to development team members. While these roles may be necessary and useful, don’t rely on the proxy exclusively.

In GROWS, development teams have direct access to users. Now, depending on your organization, you might still have product developers in place to collect and filter information, but that does not replace direct user involvement.

Team members can take turns going into the field and shadowing users as they perform actual work. Key users answer questions about workflows. When developers and QA disagree about something, both product developers and users provide the answer.

Warning Signs

  • No one on your teams has ever met a user
  • No one on your team has talked to a user in the last month
  • A user has never attended your team’s demos (even virtually)
  • All user contact is forbidden and information is routed through a specific set of proxies
  • Teams complain about not getting information when they need it
  • Teams have no idea how users work with the product

How To Fail Spectacularly

  • Relying on spreadsheets and reports instead of first-hand communication
  • Hiding developers from users, and vice-versa
  • Setting up a customer feedback program, then hiding the results
  • Polling users for feedback, then ignoring the results

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