The bee in the room.

An artistic rendition of Beezilla terrorizing a design meeting.

My job as a UX Consultant involves countless with stakeholders.

This gives me unique insights into the perception stakeholders have of application development, and in turn forces me to rethink how to effectively interact with them.

Yesterday I was in a meeting discussing a simple “confirm your email signup flow” for a webshop. You know, the tedious pattern, where you stop what you are doing, go to your inbox, click the link, go back and finish whatever it was you were trying to do.

Anyway, the stakeholder must have read some anxiety inducing security propoganda article and insisted that all users must create a two factor authentication before they are even allowed to view the products.

After a long and frustrating discussion I was venting with a super smart colleague of mine, when he mentioned “the bee in the room”.

People overreacting to a normal bee, thinking it’s Beezilla.

What is the bee in the room?

The “bee in the room” is pretty much what it sounds like.
Something tiny that ends up getting way to much attention.
“The chances of the bee actually stinging anyone is tiny, yet people start screaming and running around as if there is a giant problem that needs solving right at that very moment” he said.

The mental imagery of this is genius. This is exaclty what it feels like.

Noticing the bee in the room?

Noticing the bee in the room before you’re knee deep in a verbal arms race is always easier in hindsight.

  1. What is the goal of the meeting?
  2. If the question is related to the goal, how effective/realistic is it.
  3. If the solution isn’t straight forward, is this the right time for the discussion?

Whenever I hear my mind saying “you cant be serious” or “here we go again”, that’s when I know there is about to be a discussion that is not worth everyones time.

What’s even worse is when it’s the Ceo’s concerns.
As good little employee’s, I’ll admit it’s hard not to engage with the CEO and help reassure them of their concerns, unfortunately this usually just turns into a giant waste of time and no direct solution.

An artistic rendition of a wildlife expert capturing the rare Bee’us Maximus.

“Your job as a Bee Keeper is to acknowledge the bee, keep calm, capture it and release it into the wild.” — Steve Irwin

Freeing the bee in the room?

Firstly, it’s important to have a designated “Bee Keeper”. Usually this is a scrum master, a stakeholder, a UXer or who ever is leading the discussion (or the person designated to answer the question due to their expertise on the subject). Talk to the person before the meeting (or send them this amazing article), and let them know that you are on board with shutting down any potential bee’s.

The tools to use are simple:

Designated Bee Keepers tools

“I understand your concerns, but now is not the right time to discus this issue”

“I don’t think this is the right time for this discussion, but I’ll come back to you on this after lunch.”

Bee keeper backup tools

“I agree”

It’s that simple.

Why we want Bee-less meetings

The simple answer is: to create Business value.
Time spent in meetings is time not spent on other things.
Another problem is if the “” end up on a roadmap or sprint planning.

“It’s not the cost of the meetings that are worrying,
what worries us are the resources needed to implement safeguards for edge cases that have a tiny change of ever occurring.” 
 — Leon van Moorsel, Sr. Manager Community Team at Mendix


Be the Bee Keeper
Talk openly about being better Bee Keepers.
If you are in a meeting, and it’s going nowhere, speak up, more people are probably thinking the same thing, and will back you up.

“If there are no Bee Keepers in the room, YOU are the Bee Keeper…” -Mahatma Gandhi

Feel free to add your “Bee puns” in the comments below to make all the UX dads proud.

Only Bees may refer to their product as the H word.

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