As information architects, we are often involved in sprawling, ambiguous projects that pull together a wide panel of stakeholders and cross many organizational boundaries. Projects like this often get messy and stall due to disagreement between parties. Consider this: how many of us have ever grimaced at the politics involved in managing a navigation project?
When we “do IA”, we are asking our colleagues to engage with us on abstract concepts, working across siloed teams, with limited time, on some murky problem. We’re taking on our colleagues’ assumptions, hopes, and beliefs, and translating those into things like website navigation, content models, and taxonomies. This isn’t about politics – this is about discomfort, uncertainty, and fear.
The IA’s role in creating clarity goes far beyond producing deliverables – we must also attend to the emotions of those we are shepherding through the abstract world of IA. We can guide our colleagues through the uncertainty and into a lighter, brighter, more confident collaboration space.
I’ll share some methods I’ve used as an information architect at Microsoft to facilitate murky projects with higher stakeholder confidence, less churn, better meetings, noticeable progress, and ultimately, successful outcomes. I’ll also share some lessons learned from when things didn’t go well. Attendees will take away a set of principles and methods for each, such as:
- Setting the stage:
- Establishing a north star and defining principles
- Translating abstract goals into a concrete project plan
- Assembling the team: leveraging expertise and finding your “do-ers”
- Fostering healthy collaboration:
- Employing curiosity
- Being humble
- Practicing transparency
- Engaging individual expertise
- Communicating clearly and reliably
- Coaching as a practitioner