Role reversal

We started our research from shadowing users. All team members spent a whole day working with the people who are using our product – internal users – delivery drivers. It wasn’t training, we were actually helping the drivers deliver shopping to real customers.

We learnt a lot that day – about the users themselves, about the delivery process and how it is really handled by the system we provide, and a bit about the customers. We felt like experts for a while, even though it was very limited qualitative research.

We decided to put it into test however and invited an experienced user to a workshop with us. Our first task was to… reverse our roles (kind of).

So, this is your job:

We asked Mike-the-user to pretend that it’s his first day at this job, even though he’d spent the last 10 years doing it. All he was supposed to know is that the role involves delivering goods to customers.

Next, we asked the dev team to pretend they are his line managers and they need to explain the job to him – step by step. Mike was a curious student, so he was allowed as many detailed questions as possible.

It started well, but very soon we got corrected: nope, it’s not how it works…

We were missing details, got some procedures mixed up and couldn’t answer some of the questions, even about our own system! We also discovered how our system can be misleading if things go wrong.

We are not on the same page

giphy -shaking head

We now know that even by shadowing users, we can still misunderstand things. Especially if things go well during the day – we can’t see the whole range of issues our users face. Also, we are more likely to believe that problems that occurred during our experience are happening more often, when in fact, they might be statistically rare.

So we are not on the same page. And we will never be. But that’s ok – we are very different people and have different skill sets – that’s why we have different jobs. What we should do is to work towards minimising this gap by educating ourselves about the users, and also educating our users about our job when possible.

Key benefits

  • The meeting is more engaging for everyone.
  • We actively think about the process (as opposed to passively listening about their job).
  • Misunderstandings are spotted quickly.
  • We build a relationship with users.

Try it yourself – explain to your users what their job is. You will discover a lot of surprises.