Building UX Culture within an Organisation

In the previous post I wrote about what Design Studio was and wasn't. I wrote that it was ‘Not a Verb, but a Culture’, and since then have been thinking about Culture and how to change this. Culture is a complex, and living in another culture myself then the one I was born in, has given me a great deal to think about over the years.

To me culture is something that develops as a result of a set of common beliefs and practices.

Shifting culture comes down to constant communication of your beliefs, setting good examples and highlighting positive outcomes.

I also believe shifting culture, like making any change, requires  time.

While implementing Design Studio in our development process our team has worked on improving UX understanding and building a culture around this. This has been a symbiotic relationship in that the use of Design Studio plays a large role in this culture shift.

Our efforts have fallen into some basic categories:

1. Define your UX beliefs and philosophy 

A UX belief is a shared point-of-view. Working with a central UX team, buy-in is extremely important for success. Our UX beliefs are reinforced and demonstrated through processes, design approaches with members outside the UX team in the product development process.

So what are our beliefs ?

I would say we we have two -

In the case of our team, and likely because I come from a user research background, we believe strongly in a deep understanding of the user needs to be in place before products are developed. To support this belief, we invest time in end-user research focused on "contextual inquiry", or interviews conducted in the environment where end-users interact with our products. We operate within a continuous software delivery system and frequent customer validation is also crucial for effective UX

Secondly, our always team strives for a high level of collaboration both within our group as well in the product development teams. Design Studio is a large tool that we use in this collaboration. We develop complex products and collaboration insures good designs and effective communication with all roles in the Product Development team.

2. Describe and document your process , tools and outcomes 

A set of beliefs will remain an abstract philosophy, until you put them into practice. In order for remove abstraction you must make your beliefs real and actionable. To do this you must go through an exercise of defining your Design process, guidelines and outcomes.

You must begin the documentation with the Design process. Documenting the design process is essential to communicate your practice within the organisation and key stakeholders. You need describe the process from high-level process (why) down through the (what) and finally describe the details of the (how).  Drill down into the tools and artefacts that  support the process. In our case this documentation has included:  Design Process description - a presentation describing the major activities and how these integrate into the software development cycle. Role of User Research in the UX process - a  presentation that describes the User Research, guidelines how to conduct research as the well as communication of the results into the organisation. Description of Design Studio in the Development process- Collaborative Design is an important part of our process, so this process is described in detail

3. Communicate your story and share your knowledge.

Once you have documented your philosophy, beliefs, and process,  you must be able to tell a story about your practice and benefits.  Depending on your organisation and the amount of technology focus, your UX practice will likely operate in a different way. Stories uncovered from research about real users interacting with our products and  how this relates to the UX process is a good way to do this.

Although we don’t have our own room all team members are encouraged to post recent designs on the walls to demonstrate where we are in the design process. In our case we also have a Yammer network that is used frequently to post images, wireframes and prototypes for feedback from persons not located in Stockholm. This has proved very effective in spreading our message.

Once presented, and internalised by others, the beliefs and practices will form a culture. Hopefully this will be a shared "practice-able" culture.

As my friend and 'twitter sage'  Daniel Szuc says:

Be the practice you seek others to be, this requires hard work

I will let you know how this goes.