My Team is the A Team

…And I’m always Hannibal

I think it’s impossible not to work closely with other people and not draw comparisons to how between your team and other teams, fictional or otherwise.

My group of friends is constantly making comparisons between our dynamic and that of the characters in the Always Sunny crew (surprisingly, I am not always Sweet Dee), and my college girlfriends have made analogies between us and the Sex and the City cast on more occasions than I would like to admit.

It makes sense then, that I have the same habit with my team at Design For Use. Our core team is small, comprised of me as the Project Manager, Valle as the User Researcher, Natalia as an Interaction Designer, and Young as a Senior UX Designer.

Just given our basic positions in the company, and having no context for our personalities, I’m sure it’s easy to make some assumptions about our role on the team: As PM I’m the mother figure, Valle (Researcher) is the straight guy, Natalia (Designer) is the free spirit, Young (Sr. Designer) wild man.

The A Team Breakdown

However, that’s not at all the case. The great thing about our team is that depending on the scenario, each of us has the ability (and tendency) to take on different roles depending on what’s required of us.

Therefore, I think the best possible comparison between my team and any other existing team in history is the A Team.

The most typical way our roles align with the A Team is as follows:

Project Manager as Hannibal

Not surprisingly, I am oft the leader of the group. I mean, part of my job description entails his tag line “I love it when a plan comes together.” When I get “on the jazz,” that means I’m going out on a limb for the client or the project.

User Researcher as Face

Valle is most often the Face of the team. She is known for forging the initial (and crucial) relationships with the clients because she leads our contextual inquiries and stakeholder interviews. Everyone always loves Valle. She ends up getting to know our clients early, and then serves as our “woman on the inside” when we need information from the client. The fact that she’s easy on the eyes doesn’t hurt.

Interaction Designer as BA

Natalia might not seem like a natural fit as a stand-in for Mr. T, but she is. Most of the time. She is like a Mrs. Fix It who can do pretty much anything for our team or the clients. Most telling in her comparison to BA is her soft core despite her tough exterior. While Natalia doesn’t fly into fits of rage over design reviews or client requests, I have heard her mutter “you better cut that jibber jabber” when we get off topic during a review.

Senior UX Designer as Murdock

While we’ve never had to spring Young out of a mental hospital, he is definitely the loose canon of the team. He will stop at nothing to make sure that his designs make an impression for our clients. I never know what is going to come out of his mouth next. It keeps things interesting. You can also easily draw a parallel between Murdock being the pilot of the A Team and Young being the pilot of our design direction.

However, sometimes we swap roles. Sometimes when we’re dealing with a difficult request from a client, Natalia becomes Face, Valle takes on Murdock, and Young is BA. But I am always, always Hannibal. Although I may not always have a cigar in my mouth, I am typically thinking of new tactics and approaches to solve a problem.

While there are times when Valle might pull a BA because we’re not keeping in line with user needs and goals. And Natalia might go Murdock on the client because she believes so wholly in her designs. And even Young has occasion to turn into Face for the right client and the right circumstance. But again, there I am as Hannibal, blowing smoke rings in the back of the room and plotting our next move.

I really DO love it when a plan comes together.