How to Design New Products in a Small News Organization

Emma Carew Grovum, who works at the Foreign Policy magazine, talks about how to “Design new products in a small organization” with emphasis on working with a small company and keeping the employees working well together.

Grovum focuses on the “ten best practices she has learned while bouncing between tech and editorial in the past year.”

1. Previously On… 

Start with recapping what has already happened within projects. “Work and communicate like you’ve got a new team of aliens showing up to collaborate every day. Start at step 0 and assume that not everyone is up to speed at all times.”

2. Kill Scope Creep Early and Often

What does “ASAP” really mean? “Define “mission critical” and “minimally viable” upfront.

3. Get organized, like really freaking organized

Use different apps and websites to help not only organize yourself, but the company as well. Websites and apps such as Dropbox and Google Drive, are the two that Grovum mentions in her presentation. “Standing check-in meetings, daily email update, online chat” are examples of how to get the company organized.

4. You, call 911

“One thing they teach lifeguards is to always designate a specific person to call 911 in an emergency, never saying,’someone call 911′ and pointing vaguely into the crowd. Be specific, especially in email communications. Assign tasks to people, not crowds.”

5. Being vague wastes time. Don’t waste time

Be specific. Show things through text, don’t just tell. Also, in emails, don’t just point out a statement like “the thing is broken”, be more specific.

6. Wireframes will only get you so far

Don’t just ask someone to rely on sketches or wireframes when they aren’t “intimately involved in the nitty-gritty of how something is built”

7. All the “little things” add up

“If you can knock through a handful of small requests per week, it can buy you some goodwill on the stuff that will take much longer to solve.”

8. Don’t do things that don’t work

Grovum describes some things that didn’t work for her and her company such as, “unclear hierchy of stakeholders causes confusion, revisiting decisions wastes time, try to avoid a 23rd hour push, and hold people accountable for deliverables.”

9. Everyone can help with user testing

Try your website out with other people outside of your career and company. Also, if your staff can’t use your website, neither will your audience. “Take the time to explain exactly what feedback you are looking for, and how to best report it.”

10. Manners

“It sounds dumb, but “please” and “thank you” go a long way — especially on deadline, especially late at night, especially over email, especially you’re so sick of looking at each other, your screens, and your project.”

“Giving your teammates the benefit of the doubt and assuming best intentions can help protect everyone’s sanity.”

Additionally, Grovum gives some tips for staying sane through it all. She mentions, that “sometimes you have to be the bad cop. And it sucks.” But people can be bribed with delicious treats such as beer and candy, to make up for it.

She also advises others to try changing venues often and to “do the things that only you can do, don’t do the things that someone else can do just as easily.”

One last piece of advice that Grovum offers is to use baseball cards of all your employees to get better acquainted in a small but also in a large business.

You can click here to see slides from today’s talk.