During March, we were lucky to host Susan Weinschenk and Andy Vitale in our Ask the UXperts Slack channel.
In keeping with the theme of stakeholder management, each offered their views on how UX practitioners can navigate the challenges of working with different parts of organisations. While we always publish full transcripts of these sessions, in this post we’ve pulled out a few key insights from each chat.
Andy Vitale: Designing a Culture of Experience
Andy kicked off the month talking about Designing a Culture of Experience. He won the hearts of the entire room when he put this question to us: Does it seem like the UX team is the only advocate for the user, and the business thinks that they can still just put out a product and people will just use/buy it?.
Here are a couple of our highlights from Andy’s chat.
On where UX fits within an organisation
Empathise with others who work with design. Although the business may not understand design decisions, designers don’t always take the time to understand the business constraints and strategies before starting to problem solve. Try to understand how design goals can better integrate with marketing, technical, lab, business goals.
Although UX design is key to both strategy and success, we have to realise that we are not the sole provider of either of those
Here’s something to really understand. UX is not the centre of the corporate universe.
As we start to define our ideal state, share your strategies with other members of your organisation to gain diverse perspectives from cross-functional colleagues. Embracing transparency and inclusion will strengthen your strategy and help deliver a stronger, more aligned vision.
Create a need that focuses more on solving user problems and improving outcomes rather than providing features.
UX isn’t done in a vacuum. You have to have access to people of all skill sets (developers, SME’s, marketers, scientists, etc.). You will be spending a lot of time together solving problems and sharing insights. Build trust with your colleagues and inspire them to focus on providing the optimal experience for your users.
But at some point, people get tired of hearing designers talk about design.
Leave the UX/design lingo behind – clearly communicate solutions to the rest of the team in words they understand. The business mgr is worried about profits, the marketing mgr about brand and experience – we can’t confuse them with design speak.
There is a trick to influencing those around you to think like you do.
It’s called DOING THE WORK.
You have to do the work. Getting a jump start on the work and showing progress can influence so many conversations as well as clearly communicate what is still unknown. By driving with design you are demonstrating accountability and this is a great example to set when trying to influence culture.
Things like improving ease of use and reducing errors should be a given. That’s what they hired us to do. When we do that, it’s nothing they didn’t expect.
So here’s where we start to move the needle
In the beginning, you have to work on projects where you bring the most value. You can’t work on every project or create solutions that are everything to everyone. Understand where you can make an impact and start there.
On building your UX team’s profile
Designers are natural storytellers, whether with words or designs. Offer to help stakeholders visualise some of their objectives – this is a great way to gain their trust and build a relationship with them. Before you know it they will be sharing your story, which you influenced, at all of their meetings. Word of mouth is a powerful thing.
You put in a lot of effort and the project was successful. Invite others to celebrate with you – everybody loves a winner. Share your case study with as many people as possible – your wins will work their way up the ladder. Let executives communicate your wins, people will line up to work with you.
Susan Weinschenk: What Stakeholders Need to Know About Psychology
We’ve pulled out a few of the most insightful questions and answers from Susan’s chat.
Question: How do you best manage stakeholders so that they don’t ‘lord over’ new features?
Susan: “Lord over” meaning instead of relying on research, a stakeholder tells the product team what to build and when. Yes, that happens a lot – that a stakeholder wants to do things a certain way.
But we have to understand that only a fraction of what we suggest is implemented. It can be frustrating, but I think we need to change our definition of what “successful” means.
Ask yourself, “is anything about this product better for my having been involved?” and if the answer is yes, then you’ve been successful.
Having said that, the other tack is that data always helps. You have to take it out of me vs. you and put it on to “the data from our users shows that…”
Question: Assuming they [the stakeholder] make a bad call and the users respond with attrition, how would you approach the stakeholder to rectify the situation?
Susan: I think sometimes UX people feel guilty when things don’t go well. That’s why it’s important to be very clear from the start that the buck stops with the stakeholder: they are accountable. You are working together with them. You are an advisor. If things don’t go well, you are right there willing to help, but it’s not all your fault. They make decisions too.
While it’s easy to become the scapegoat. if you are clear from the beginning on what your role is, then you can remind them of that later too.
Question: So what is the most important thing stakeholders need to know about psychology?
Susan: I think they need to know that users are focused on their tasks, may not like change, can’t see the colour blue as well as others, and may have very specific needs. Some examples are:
The difference between performance and preference. Users typically say they want to see all their choices at once, but research shows if you show too many choices then people don’t choose at all.
Or research shows that people read faster with a longer line length, but they prefer a shorter line length. So what’s more important: that they read faster or that they read at all?
That if people are stressed they may not notice things on a screen that are perfectly noticeable to the rest of us because when we are designing it we aren’t under the same type of stress.
That 10% of men are colorblind and can’t distinguish between some colours.
Things that make a design difficult for people with impairments such as vision or hearing.
Fewer words is always better! And clearly understood words!
Didn’t make it to any of our March Ask the UXperts sessions? Make sure you join our community to get updates on upcoming sessions.
See what else we talked about in March – catch up on all our stakeholder management posts: