I wondered if the title of this post shouldn’t have been “Solving tough problems permanently”. Often, tough problems are related to deeply-embedded bureaucratic or political behaviors in organizations influencing the quality of products and services negatively. New ways of working and organizing, or emerging insights, can contribute to “raising the design IQ of an organization”.
This is the eighth article in a series on UX design and change management. Previous: Part 7.
The difficult changes
In step 5 “Empower others to act on the vision“, I mentioned three difficult problems in organizations impacting the quality of design:
- Inside-out thinking: Employees are just like people, thinking they are the centre of the universe. Almost by nature, their ideas, beliefs, or targets determine their decisions about what is beneficial for customers.
- The silo problem: Departments do not cooperate. They compete, perform redundant work, or don’t take any responsibility.
- Ad-hoc, project-based design: Sometimes, outside design agencies are hired to do design work. This results in redundant work, different methods of working and outputs. It doesn’t lead to a structurally-autonomous position of design in organizations.
Designers have tools and organizational measures to face these difficult problems. A few examples in the table below.
The question remains: Are these tools and measures sufficient to create a permanent change, or are others necessary as well?
Structural design tools and measures
I will provide a few design instruments or tools which have not been mentioned in my previous posts and which contribute to realizing the mission of “raising the design IQ of the organization”.
Service essentials can be considered as the ten commandments for every newly-developed service. In service essentials, the interests of the customer (e.g. simplicity, 24/7 service delivery, anytime-anywhere) are complemented and balanced with the interests of both the business (sales, time-to-market) and technology (stability, performance). Upfront agreement on the service essentials before the design of the services starts prevents many discussions later on when designs are critiqued and evaluated. The service essentials become a part of any service design trajectory.
A service blueprint is a diagram of an (online) service in which the customer process (front-stage) is connected to the delivery organization (back-stage). With service blueprints, the potential impact on the organization of a specific service can be analysed in an early stage.
Service blueprints are created in cooperation with in-house experts in Technology, Communication and Process, also responsible for further detailing these blueprints.
A design library with re-usable components
“An underutilized area where the user experience impact can be extended is through the IT architecture and the reuse it enables.”
(From “User Experience Management” by Arnie Lund)
A design library contains standardized UI components to create prototypes for multiple channels and devices. Preferably, the library is connected to IT back-office components, to assure the feasibility of the designed user interfaces. A design library aims at a consistent, efficient and faster time-to-market through standardization and re-usability.
An industrial design process
As stated in the introduction, due to complexity (multiple touch points, ecosystems) and increasing demands customers put on the user experience, a permanent and structured design process becomes necessary. Such a process contains standardized steps followed and deliverables created during the design phase of a product or service: ideation, design, prototyping and evaluation.
In previous step 6 “Create short-term wins” I already mentioned LoFi prototyping. HiFi prototyping requires more time, but with quality results: an almost-real site or application. It is a proof-of-concept, integrating content, functionalities, visual design and technology. With these HiFi prototypes, stakeholders can make informed decisions. Also, user testing can be conducted before the design is implemented in a real production environment.
An independent/autonomous UX design department
Previous best practices, like re-usable components, an industrial design process and HiFi prototyping must be integrated in the organization. A separate UX design department is the appropriate place to do this. This department directs and executes all design work. It is also the department which supports other departments with design activities and workshops.
Scenario-based thinking and working
Arnie Lund outlines his motivation to make all activities of his team and beyond scenario-based. Projects, functionalities, bugs, and reports are all connected to user scenarios.
Initiatives of the organization to make the customer process leading for their activities are comparable. Making the customer process pivotal also creates connections between activities of other departments. And in case an activity cannot be connected to a scenario, then you might wonder how relevant the activity actually is.
The RACI Model: Formalizing tasks and responsibilities
In previous steps for change, for example in step 5 “Empower others to act on the vision“, the designer tries to make customer or user experience a relevant topic for everybody.
“The experience is typically a shared responsibility.”
(From “User experience management” by Arnie Lund)
This creates the danger that although everybody has an opinion about it, in the end nobody takes responsibility for it.
The RACI model is a perfect tool to agree on the cooperation and tasks among various departments. For each task or deliverable, the role of a department is specified. I’ll present a simplified version of this model with new departments, like Design and UX Design.
In search of success: introducing colors of change
A lot is written in the change management literature on when a change is successful and permanent and how to get to such a change. To address the question of when a design-related change is successful and permanent, I’ll introduce the so-called colors of change by De Caluwé.
De Caluwé distinguishes five colors of change: Yellow (for politics), Blue (for structure), Red (for people), Green (for learning), and White (for energy). All organizations have a (dominant) color, instruments for change (so-called interventions) have a color, and change agents have a (preferred) color. Each color represents an ideal or ambition. For example, “to unify interests” (Yellow), “to create structure” (Blue) or “to stimulate the self-learning organization” (Green).
The choice of a strategy for change will partly be determined by answering the question “Can we do it with more of the same?” Are we going to solve a problem with an instrument from the color of the organization, or not? To give you an example of an approach with multiple colors. Large organizations with predominant politics and procedures (Yellow and Blue) hire designers known for their learning, experimental and creative approach (Green and White).
The choice of a strategy for change is also determined by the conviction of the change agent. Some change agents believe in planned change (Yellow and Blue). Their objective is clear, the path to follow is set, and risks are under control as much as possible. Others emphasize the Green and White change. It is their conviction that permanent change only occurs within the social network of the organization in which people give their individual meaning to the change; unplanned and with no predefined outcome.
The color of design instruments
Design instruments and organizational measures also have colors. In the table below, I present a non-comprehensive overview of ideals and ambitions of a specific color and the design instruments and organizational measures contributing to them.
First, you’ll notice that designers can use instruments of multiple colors to solve various problems. Some of these, like prototyping or workshops are versatile and contribute to ideals and ambitions of multiple colors. Second, alongside design instruments, organizational measures are necessary to achieve real change. And third, designers need other change agents as well to conceptualize and implement specific measures.
The successful and permanent change
Tough problems in organizations like inside-out thinking, the silo problem and ad-hoc design projects are multi-colored. You don’t solve them with just a workshop (Red), a training (Green), or a department (Blue). Therefore, I strongly suggest to use a multi-colored approach for “raising the design IQ of the organization”. Such an approach implies a combination of instruments and measures of different colors. Just combine them, so their effects on the organization with all its diversity of people and ambitions is maximal. Given the organization and the impact of the instruments, you can select one instrument over another. For example, an UX champion is a must (See step 2 “Form a powerful coalition”).
Based upon my experience as a design manager, I’ll now outline a few points of this holistic approach.
Balancing structure, learning, and creativity
Creating structure (Blue) with more processes, tools and a design library is fine, as long as it supports designers and does not limit their experimentation (Green) and creativity (White). Rephrased in the colors of change: if Blue becomes too dominant over Green and White, then you’ve got a problem. Or the other way around: if Green and White dominate over Blue, quality, consistency and efficiency can be jeopardized.
Although a design library is a blue instrument (consistency and efficiency), it must have some Green and White aspects (regular improvements, flexibility, and extensible) as well, in order to permanently innovate as an organization.
Never become a department
Setting up a design department is not without risks. It can lead to complacency. “We fixed it, extended the organogram, so it’s back to business as usual.” Other departments can use a design department as an excuse for not taking their responsibilities. “They are design, we aren’t.” Or worse, the design department become an entity to “work around”.
As described above in my proposed holistic approach, it is essential that a design department is closely connected to its environment, building bridges (Red), teaching design thinking to others (Green), delivering great design (White), and accessing the boardroom (Yellow).
HR needed as change agent
There is a lot to gain in the human dimension (Red), when HR professionals use their instruments in co-operation with designers to embed design thinking into the DNA of the organization. Personal targets, development plans, success stories, design competitions, promotion policy, and UX recruitment are HR instruments which can be valuable. See also, step 8 “Anchor the changes in corporate culture“.
The learning organization
A learning organization creates an atmosphere in which people apply design thinking, experiment, test, take customer feedback serious, and provide mutual feedback. To realize this, designers should refocus from the product to be designed to the employee. This has been decribed in step 5 “Empower others to act on the vision“. Design training, design games and design modules, co-created with the training departments can lead to a more persistent change than a great design in the long run. What would Design Thinking training for the full organization entail?
I know of a few examples of successful off-site events with all employees (so-called “large-scale interventions”), with a large service design component, initiated by service designers in co-operation with other change managers.
And last but not least, feedback loops must be implemented fully and not halfway or just only in name. But what creates a real loop in the feedback loop? Collect feedback, analyze the feedback, modify the product for real based upon the feedback, and test, test, and test to see if the modifications make it a better product. Just to conduct an usability test, but with no resources available for implementing the results can’t be called a feedback loop.
The power of service design
Service design proves to be a very effective method in which many colors of change can be combined. Various departments are involved, cooperate, learn to know each other, and get new insights. Deliverables unify their multiple interests, provide structure and stability for the following detailed design.
Service design also deserves a structural place in the organization, because of permanent innovation and guidance for the development of products and services.
The problem of silos is a silo problem
The silo problem can only be resolved when change managers solve their own silo problem. When change agents with different backgrounds start to cooperate, solutions can emerge beyond service design workshops, such as multi-disciplinary product teams instead of departments, internal relocations, mergers of departments, or new targets for departments.
The essence of my story is not just to do a single thing in order to “raise the design IQ of the organization”. For that, the challenges are too big. But instead focus on a combination of design instruments and organizational measures and on co-operation with other change agents (like HR or Training).
In my next post, I’ll describe the final step “Anchor the changes in corporate culture” and focus on design and corporate culture.
About the author
Gerjan Boer (@gerjanboer) has 15 years experience as a project manager of UX design teams. Working at Informaat, he currently focuses on the value of experience design for change management in organizations. Gerjan has an engineering degree from Delft University of Technology.