We’ve all been there. We ask thoughtful and detailed questions upfront to understand the business needs and the research objectives. We use this information to create a study design and craft a targeted discussion guide. And then suddenly, brand new objectives pop up and derail the carefully conceived plan.
Here are three tips to help minimize the unwanted appearance of surprise objectives:
- Define success at the beginning of the project – and write it down. The definition of success varies from person to person, leaving room for misinterpretation so make sure all key stakeholders are in alignment on their expectations of a successful outcome. Document this in writing and be sure the definition of success is clearly stated on all collateral. If objectives change as the project evolves, update them and be sure they’re clear and present at each stage of the project.
- Press for details. No question is a stupid question, especially when it comes to forming a partnership based on mutual agreement and understanding. Ask for as much detail upfront as possible—moderators of the client, and the client of their team members. When stakeholders and researchers begin to assume, we run a considerable risk of misalignment when the project ends. As curious, inquisitive researchers, our job of collecting information begins well before the first respondent engages – we must engage our stakeholders from the start by asking smart questions, clarifying any lingering assumptions and confirming that we are meeting expectations.
- Check-in early and often. Throughout the project, plan check-ins at key milestones where important information is shared efficiently. This gives ample opportunity for reaction, response, and redesign if needed, or to bring attention to initiatives that aren’t aligning with expectations. When everyone participates in a well-designed, efficiently executed process, we can all share in the successful outcome and diminish the potential of surprise objectives coming to light too late.
Have any tips that have worked well for you? We’d love to talk further about how to avoid or manage surprise objectives.