A Mile In One’s Shoes: Reflections from Week 1

…or so the saying goes. This is how we learn to think and feel like another. By putting on their shoes we enter their domain of local knowledge and context. By walking a mile in those shoes we are forced to step out of our comfort zones, framed by the tacit knowledge and recurring actions of our own domains of work, and into new areas where our thoughts and actions take on a more explicit nature as we struggle with new activities and action on unfamiliar turf.

Going into this project I carried with me ironically naive notion that my quest for user (customer) empathy would be about their usage of our retail automation system. What I became evident from the moment I “put my foot in the river” of retail (apologies to Heraclitus) was that the activities in which I was now immersed brought with it an abundance of peripheral considerations that I could not have foreseen, most of which were not directly related to the system proper, but to the context in which I was using it.

My very first thought was that I needed shelf talkers. In taking over the project from our office manager (the buyer for our break room) was that there were subset of items that we had waaaaaay too many of in back stock. These included a ginger beer, a low-calorie soda sweetened with stevia, a particular brand of chips, some flavored nuts, and a few other items.

Secondly, while stocking the lower shelves of the drink cooler, I realized I needed knee pads. I used to have a pair when I worked in book store retail, and here I was needing them again. What does me needing knee pads have to do with the design of our system? I don’t know yet, but I suspect some connections will over time.

I must have fat-fingered (or simply entered incorrectly) several UPC numbers for certain new items. Several of my co-workers came to me with products in hand (Fever Tree Ginger Beer, Tangerine Emergen-C, etc) that the kiosk wouldn’t scan. I promptly launched the inventory maintenance module from my office laptop and corrected the UPC entry, and my fellow employees were able to purchase the item as soon as I had saved the changes.

The first morning I was back in the office after the Expo East trade show, I processed the order that had arrived while I was in Baltimore. The hand held terminal I needed to receive the items quickly was being used by one of our QA guys, and I was in a hurry, so I simply committed the purchase order without verifying the ship quantities. My thought was that when the hand held terminal became available, I would use it to ensure that my on-hand quantities were correct. I made that decision four days ago and still have not done anything about it.

As I write this blog I’m plotting my strategy for how to better manage the back stock of items that I need to put back in storage. I wonder if I should keep a few of each item hidden away in my office for quick restocking and put the rest downstairs in storage. What are the drawbacks to keeping back stock in two physical locations? And what are the implications of this with respect to our system?

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About burtaycock

Father of 2 great boys, interaction designer, doodler, student of life.
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