Maturing Design Culture in an Organisation

Design culture is about rediscovering the human side of business. UX Design is becoming an increasingly valued part of all kinds of organisations, although there are still pockets of resistance.

So how do we manage design in organisations to achieve their full potential? Better UX design maturity makes an organisation more competitive and more effective at delivering great products and services. This talk goes through case studies from years of leading product development — both successful and not — to show that investing in design culture will help an organisation achieve greatness.

What does “design culture” really mean?

Design culture is about rediscovering the human side of business.

What about “design maturity”?

  • Renato Feijo’s six stages of UX maturity (“Planning your UX strategy”), from unrecognised to the utopia of design being embedded at all levels of the organisation.
  • Stephen Gates has a great visualisation of whether the design team is external, included, core or integral to the business.

Issues faced trying to get design established:

  • fear of failure – you can see it in peoples actions, they may miss opportunities or make bad decisions out of fear
  • iterate without vision – flying blind
  • no focus, no goal – this is the organisation not having a vision, or having a vague one like “make more money”
  • people resistant to change – not unique to design, but it is a big barrier
  • failing without learning – you need to do post-mortems and retros, to work out how to improve and not repeat mistakes
  • fear of leaping (no real change) – people end up giving nothing more than lip service to change, they are more tactical than strategic

Approach to maturity and improvement:

  • understand your organisation’s core values – align to those values; and note that if an individual’s values aren’t aligned with the company values they are likely to be stressed and unhappy.

    Your personal core values define who you are, and a company’s core values ultimately define the company’s character and brand. For individuals, character is destiny. For organizations, culture is destiny. – Tony Hsieh

  • conduct user research – even if it’s small, “zero users give zero insights”. Make sure you are speaking the right language to stakeholders when you propose this – talk about business outcomes, not jargon.
  • evangelise – create awareness with people in the organisation why design is valuable to their process. Be inclusive and bring people into the process.
  • build a community – you can’t do this alone
  • have space for thinking and reflection – velocity alone is not success. If you are moving without knowing where you are going you’re not really progressing. You need to take time to develop insights and not just rushed results.
  • build resiliance and design muscle – if we don’t continue practicing design as a process, we’ll lose the skills.
  • be both optimistic and realistic – have the big goals, but be realistic about your constraints.

Consider the psychology of risk – organisations that haven’t embraced design are often very risk-averse.

Detailed slide around the five stages of tribal culture

book: simon sinek, the infinite game

Change is not going to be easy. You will get a lot of blockers and barriers. Change is not authorised but you have to do it anyway. Ask for forgiveness later, not permission up front.

Give your designers a hug, they’re gonna need it!