5 Dysfunctions a Team of One Faces (and how to overcome them)

This article is based off of a talk I attended as part of the UXR Conference. It was given by Roy Opata who works at Zapier. His talk was called The Five Dysfunctions of a UXR Team of One (and How to Overcome Them). I believe that these dysfunctions can apply to a much bigger audience than just UXR’s so below are the adjusted dysfunctions of a team of one.

1. You’re a role, but you are also a department.

Being the only one of you in your company can be hard. Not only are you trying to do your role but you are also trying to advocate, manage, and carve out space for your field within the company. Most of the time, the person you report to also has no idea what you actually do and therefore it can be hard to do your actual job. You are trying to carve out space as an expert on the subject but you aren’t spending any time actually developing that expertise. You are spending too much time working ON the role that you aren’t working IN the role.

2. Dealing with fuzzy metrics

As a UX Designer, our biggest buzzword is empathy. We are constantly empathizing with our users and trying to eliminate their pain points. It is what I would call a fuzzy metric. These can be really hard to advocate for because it is really hard to measure them in terms of ROI, KPI, etc. This makes most execs. less likely to listen to you and your fuzzy metrics because they are more focused on the yearly/quarterly goals and how they are making the money. They are focused on the business and not necessarily your fuzzy metrics. Meaning they don’t want to “waste” resources on a department that doesn’t produce anything “useful”.

3. Your work has a short lifecycle

One of the biggest pitfalls we land in as a team of one is this. We spend so much time trying to produce quality deliverables that we forget about the big picture. We typically rush from one project to another without considering our overall impact. But we forget that what seems immediate isn’t always paramount. Being a team of one, our biggest goal should be elevating the understanding between our coworkers. This does play into dysfunction 1 but this is more about collaboration than evangelizing.

4. Being a team of one is lonely

5. Time is your worst enemy

You are by yourself, you are trying to advocate your role as well as prove you are worthy of it. Because of this is you can start to try and take on everything people ask of you. You start to believe that helping other departments or team members will make them appreciate you better. However, taking on everything leads to producing lower quality work. Most of us imagine the quality of work we want to be doing, and wish we could be doing. But typically this isn’t achievable because there is too much of it.

Bonus: Your manager knows nothing about your role

  1. Learn the company’s language and relate it to your work.
  2. Make friends with the data and analytics teams.
  3. Socialize your work.
  4. Connect with an outside community. Find new resources.
  5. Prioritize 2–3 things each week
  6. Educate your managers

Written by

UX/UI Designer in Austin, TX.

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