Is it feedback, or signoff?

Keyboard Jumble by Lynn Friedman

Grubby sign off. Photo by lynnfriedman at Flickr

Many groups suffer from having too many levels of sign off: designers seek sign off on UI changes from the head of their department and, potentially, the studio manager. This is after UX have sought sign off from their functional head. After that, we need stakeholder sign off, product owner sign off, marketing, brand and communications sign off (to ensure the message is correct) and who knows who else will need to have a say?

“With all this signing off going on, how will we ever get the damn thing launched!?” said the frustrated team members.

Perhaps you’re conflating “sign off” with “feedback”. Ultimately, there is usually only one or two people who are accountable for the success or failure of the thing you’re working on. Pragmatically speaking, this would be the product owner. For the sake of argument, we can also extend this to key stakeholders too. It’s these people that give “sign off” on whether something is ready or not.

Everyone else is just giving feedback, which can be taken on board, or ignored, as the product owner and key stakeholders see fit. If it’s a decision between pixel perfect designs and getting it in front of customers, let the PO decide. If you’re one of these functional heads and you’ve employed people whose work you need to “sign off” before it sees the light of day, perhaps you’ve employed the wrong people?

As Roy Castle sang, “Delegations what you need.” (He didn’t, he sang “Dedication…” but, whatever). If you’re building websites, your mistake won’t be live long. The more time you spend in the cycle of sign off, the less time you spend with your product creating value for your users.

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2 comments

  1. ”If you’re building websites, your mistake won’t be live long.”

    That is so incredibly untrue that I can completely see why many people want to be part of sign off. These are the people that have little power behind influencing product decisions, so want the things they can actually talk about to be to their standard.

    Too often they are ignored by everyone and it must be incredibly frustrating to have to live with an inaccurate vision.

    1. Thanks for the comment Steve.

      I’m interested to know what it is about that statement that makes it untrue? Perhaps I should have prepended it with “in an ideal world”.

      Experience at MOO has shown that you’re probably right. However no one can consider the old model as efficient and value-creating as it should be and we’d be foolish to perpetuate it – including the mantra of seeking sign off for everything.

      “Too often they are ignored by everyone and it must be incredibly frustrating to have to live with an inaccurate vision.”. I have no doubt about that, but if we keep jumping through the same hoops, we end up with the same baggage – doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is stupid – you know this.

      How do we fix it? Trust. Let’s ship some value, then go back and attend to it as soon as we can. WE have the power to do that. If we do it often enough and keep our promises, we generate trust and the sign off cycle will die.

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