Our client, the new VP of Design, needed exemplars for ideal design process to provide support during an product development process overhaul. I was selected for this project because of my deep process knowledge and experience in organizational strategy. 

By the end of the contract, I led two workshops which revealed process pain points and rallied the team around a single process; provided on-the-ground coaching to the UX team and stakeholders during to encourage more collaboration and iteration; and developed tip sheets and reference documents for daily use.

Six months after departing, the team was still utilizing artifacts generated from my activities and the VP declared, that the team was "NIGHT-AND-DAY from when you were here."

 IMAGE: The organization when we started.

IMAGE: The organization when we started.

"Throwing it OVER the Wall"

Londa, an EchoUser researcher, and I embarked on a listening tour to understand the "current state of the universe". We interviewed most of the UX design team including researchers, visual designers and interaction designers. What we saw was a team stuck in a tight loop of generating visual designs nearly overnight with little collaboration and time for deep design thinking.

  • Engineering growth enabled development to produce code faster than UX can design.
  • This time pressure made it hard to see the forest for the trees.
  • To avoid being a blocker, design was executed without sufficient info, rationale and feedback.
  • Saying ‘yes’ to uncontextualized requests reinforced that design makes things pretty.
  • Working in this sub-optimal ways leds to burnout and feeling undervalued.

COLLABORATIVE LEARNING STRATEGY

Sharing our findings with the client, we determined that a series of workshops to rally the UX team together would create opportunities to do work differently.

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WORKSHOP 1: The company Today

The first workshop focused on the pain points in the current process and instigated staff to envision how the UX process might be better. The team acted out what was so challenging about the process today – inspiring a few laughs.

The team was excited, tired and optimistic about the direction the new process was headed in. While previous attempts to improve process had stalled out, the team found it very valuable for a consultant to carry forward the work with summaries, documentation and more.

 IMAGE: UX staff roleplaying a common scenario from our research, bringing to life existing pain points.

IMAGE: UX staff roleplaying a common scenario from our research, bringing to life existing pain points.

Workshop 2: PROTOTYPING the Future

The second workshop was a mix of education on process best practice and more roleplaying to practice new methods in the context of their organization. While all staff knew what the theoretical UX process looked like, they needed support implementing those tactics in their own corporate culture. We shared real-world artifacts and examples from previous client engagements as inspiration for developing the tactics and methods best for their organization.

 IMAGE: Explaining the UX process to stakeholders using the completed service blueprint.

IMAGE: Explaining the UX process to stakeholders using the completed service blueprint.

We utilized a service blueprint as a framework for developing new practices because it provided a systemic view of how all stakeholders would interact through the process. This view prioritizes collaboration and clarifies role definition, which was an existing organizational challenge. The service blueprint provided a structure for the team to answer the most important question they posed in the first workshop, “Who does what, when?”

For the majority of the second workshop, staff developed the detailed activities of a UX process service blueprint, including ten key stakeholders over a five stage design process. This spanned nearly 15 feet wide by 7 feet tall.

 IMAGE: Discussing ways to improve process with stakeholders

IMAGE: Discussing ways to improve process with stakeholders

Post Workshop interventions: Reference Artifacts

After the workshops, I supported the team in enacting process changes that they identified in their UX process service blueprint in their day-to-day projects. 

I reserved two hours a week to mentor individual designers and researchers; while slow to gain traction, I was eventually approached on average by 2 people a week to discuss how to manage projects, structure design deliverables and communicate with stakeholders.

Additionally, I developed tip sheets on key activities in the process and guides on how and when to bring stakeholders together.

 IMAGE: UX Process Tip sheet that simplified the large wall-size service blueprint into a cubicle-sized checklist.

IMAGE: UX Process Tip sheet that simplified the large wall-size service blueprint into a cubicle-sized checklist.

IMAGES: Pages from the Collaboration Points PDF that articulated key moments in the UX process as defined by the service blueprint. 

Post Workshop interventions: OFFICE HOURS

Our client already envisioned UX Office Hours as a way to fill resourcing gaps and provide on-the-ground learning for UX team members; I was charged with executing on that vision. I developed program content with the client, researched and implemented a calendar management system (You Can Book Me) and scheduled UX staff to provide support. 

 IMAGE: Screenshot of the Confluence page seen by all product teams.

IMAGE: Screenshot of the Confluence page seen by all product teams.

Post launch, I maintained the registration system, Confluence page, and provided weekly status updates to the Product Management organization. In my tenure, I led 14 office hours sessions with multiple UX staff members and 9 distinct product teams from across the company.

 IMAGE: Screenshot of Confluence tracking page for office hour session notes.

IMAGE: Screenshot of Confluence tracking page for office hour session notes.

OUTCOMES & RESULTS

The complexity of the company environment has made it challenging to execute process changes overnight, but the UX team is increasingly more in charge of the process. From an executive level to the staff level, UX involvement in collaborating with stakeholders has increased.

The team is now engaged in grooming and planning meetings, conducting planning exercises with product and engineering teams using the service blueprint artifacts for ongoing refinement, regularly attending sprint demos and conducting more UX reviews of in-progress code.

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