Cultural change is the first job of most designmanagers ...

18 Mar 2005 - 10:09am
9 years ago
3 replies
233 reads
FelcanSmith, Mark
2004

> From: David Heller,
> my first call to order is for cultural change so that I CAN do the
design
> work that you would expect from someone like me. This work is slow and
very
> very painful.
> But for many "innies" of companies that just don't "get design" but
> desparately know they need it so they hire you, this is the
> first part of the job. It will never be on any job description, but it
is
> always there.

Couldn't agree more Dave. (although I'm not currently a design mgr) I
have faced this with almost every position I've had in the last 10 years
of designing. I'm currently in a position where I'm charged w/
implementing cultural change, although that wasn't the job description I
replied to (I'm essentially an internal UX consultant)...even the folks
that brought me on are skittish about all that is involved in this. They
are all onboard to bring a more prominent focus on usability and UX, but
are really unaware of what is involved. I approach this as an
institutionalization effort around usability and user experience design.
I've been in my current position for just over a year and am making
inroads w/ executive level and project managers alike. We're focusing on
the strategic projects and building out the competency in-house as well
as building out our resources.

There is a considerable amount of marketing and management involved in
cultural change (understatement, yes). Getting C-level champions is key
to continued successes. That and also having some failures to point back
to. Not pointing fingers at anyone in particular, only that these
project failures can be attributed, in part, to a lack of user-centered
design and usability activates. The balance between user/desirable :
business/viable : and technology/feasible, can be met, and when done so
provides a successful UX intersection.

Those successes help promote the cultural change as well as provide
momentum moving forward to the next project. In part w/ a cultural
change around UX and usability, we've also recently adopted an agile
development approach, that in many ways is complimentary to our UCD
methods. Bringing business, users, and the project team closer together
has made great leaps towards a cultural change for the better here. It
has provided a great sense of ownership, relationship building, and
continued open lines of communication. Many of which were merely
niceties previously.

One other note on this type of change, set your own and your
constituents expectations; it's not going to happen overnight.

-Mark

Comments

18 Mar 2005 - 12:11pm
Pradyot Rai
2004

David Heller,
> > my first call to order is for cultural change so that I CAN do the
> > design

I agree with the sentiments of Dave and Mark. It's an interesting
point to talk about the right culture where design can take place. I
have something to add to it.

Say, you have a place (design school) full of culture for designers
and design. You would think that their products should be aligned with
what they do/preach, right? Not necessarily!

This got me into trouble when I visited my Design School website few
months back. This site design is utter garbage and one does not need
to have Masters or PHD to do such work. However, it is contradictory
to the fact that my school has the best faculty, courseware, students
from all streams (Fine Arts, Architecture, Engineering, Design, etc.)
and regular interactions with outside world. With so many smart
people, and all that they do is design, makes you wonder why don't
they do something about their own website. What does that tells you?
It is not the "culture of design" alone that is needed. Different
people have different definition for culture, standards and never want
to reach to an agreement. And in the process of negotiation they agree
on avoiding the whole talk that matters to their business. I have many
examples, where smart people with great culture end up compromising
for mediocre outcome.

Like the responder who send his comments to Dave, or gazillions of
those who write to Jacob Neilson, I have done this myself too. On one
occasion, I was much appreciated, on this one I was almost declared
infidel. On that regard, I am with the person who took time to give
his honest feedback. He is doing a service too -- of reminding you
about the culture.

My 2 cents,

Prady

18 Mar 2005 - 12:36pm
Dan Brown
2004

Great thread, and I like that Mark has started to dig into the kinds
of cultural changes required.

Another (possible) example: I'm just finishing my first week at a new
job. I knew there would be cultural change, but I couldn't have told
you what that implied. It's clear that the existing team has done a
good job laying groundwork -- our client definitely seems to embrace
the user-centered philosophy. (Apologies to Andrew Dillon.)

On the other hand, someone on the team said to me yesterday "I want
you to create the perfect structure and then we'll work hard to sell
it internally." It occurred to me at that point that I'd have to do
some internal cultural change work as well: there's no such thing as a
perfect IA, and trying to do it in a vacuum and then sell it is a
recipe for painful compromise.

In other words, the kind of cultural change I'm facing (at least
internally) will focus on HOW the job is done, and not its value.

-- Dan

On Fri, 18 Mar 2005 09:09:04 -0600, FelcanSmith, Mark
<mfelc at allstate.com> wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> > From: David Heller,
> > my first call to order is for cultural change so that I CAN do the
> design
> > work that you would expect from someone like me. This work is slow and
> very
> > very painful.
> > But for many "innies" of companies that just don't "get design" but
> > desparately know they need it so they hire you, this is the
> > first part of the job. It will never be on any job description, but it
> is
> > always there.
>
> Couldn't agree more Dave. (although I'm not currently a design mgr) I
> have faced this with almost every position I've had in the last 10 years
> of designing. I'm currently in a position where I'm charged w/
> implementing cultural change, although that wasn't the job description I
> replied to (I'm essentially an internal UX consultant)...even the folks
> that brought me on are skittish about all that is involved in this. They
> are all onboard to bring a more prominent focus on usability and UX, but
> are really unaware of what is involved. I approach this as an
> institutionalization effort around usability and user experience design.
> I've been in my current position for just over a year and am making
> inroads w/ executive level and project managers alike. We're focusing on
> the strategic projects and building out the competency in-house as well
> as building out our resources.
>
> There is a considerable amount of marketing and management involved in
> cultural change (understatement, yes). Getting C-level champions is key
> to continued successes. That and also having some failures to point back
> to. Not pointing fingers at anyone in particular, only that these
> project failures can be attributed, in part, to a lack of user-centered
> design and usability activates. The balance between user/desirable :
> business/viable : and technology/feasible, can be met, and when done so
> provides a successful UX intersection.
>
> Those successes help promote the cultural change as well as provide
> momentum moving forward to the next project. In part w/ a cultural
> change around UX and usability, we've also recently adopted an agile
> development approach, that in many ways is complimentary to our UCD
> methods. Bringing business, users, and the project team closer together
> has made great leaps towards a cultural change for the better here. It
> has provided a great sense of ownership, relationship building, and
> continued open lines of communication. Many of which were merely
> niceties previously.
>
> One other note on this type of change, set your own and your
> constituents expectations; it's not going to happen overnight.
>
> -Mark
> _______________________________________________
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--
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Cause every little offbeat move she makes / Suits me to a tee
You know what I'm sayin' / She's the same kinda crazy as me -- DMB

22 Mar 2005 - 3:59pm
Thomas Vander Wal
2004

An awful lot of my job is culture change. It has been three and a
half years of tiny incremental culture change. Over this time I have
moved things a long way, but the last steps that are needed are giant
steps. These giant steps are ones that are desired, but also ones the
customer does not want to take as it breaks all that went before it
for everybody.

I have implemented redesign processes that focus on standards,
measured improvements in users ability to find information they need
and are seeking, I have incorporated documented design standards, and
proper development and production workflows and processes. I had
hoped to have all of this accomplished in 6 to 9 months and be out the
door, but it is much longer than that.

The lesson is cultures do not change quickly, particularly in large
organizations. Each change needs time to filter through the
organization. Focussing on measured results and the understanding of
"it depends" (along with how to test the reasoning to improve the
product).

Change is a process not an end product.

All the best,
Thomas

On Fri, 18 Mar 2005 12:36:19 -0500, Dan Brown <brownorama at gmail.com> wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> Great thread, and I like that Mark has started to dig into the kinds
> of cultural changes required.
>
> Another (possible) example: I'm just finishing my first week at a new
> job. I knew there would be cultural change, but I couldn't have told
> you what that implied. It's clear that the existing team has done a
> good job laying groundwork -- our client definitely seems to embrace
> the user-centered philosophy. (Apologies to Andrew Dillon.)
>
> On the other hand, someone on the team said to me yesterday "I want
> you to create the perfect structure and then we'll work hard to sell
> it internally." It occurred to me at that point that I'd have to do
> some internal cultural change work as well: there's no such thing as a
> perfect IA, and trying to do it in a vacuum and then sell it is a
> recipe for painful compromise.
>
> In other words, the kind of cultural change I'm facing (at least
> internally) will focus on HOW the job is done, and not its value.
>
> -- Dan

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