Transcending Silos

Theme 3: Transcending Silos

Theme Leader: Toby Haug (Head of Design & Co-Innovation Center, EMEA at SAP)

Abstract from the EUX website:
Our work impacts other partners within our organizations, and our success depends on them as much as vice versa. To operationalize UX throughout the enterprise, you’ll need to have tough conversations with stakeholders in HR, IT, and other critical areas. We’ll explore ways to collaborate across silos, set expectations, establish shared goals, and raise the value of design throughout the enterprise.

Toby provided a brief introduction to the panel.  Many of us are working with large, international organizations.  So these are talks about the inherent power of design to bridge gaps, transcend silos.  Mark is going to talk about horizontal connectivity – between roles and silos.  Ross is going to talk about connecting hierarchy through empathy and focus on customers.  And finally, Arielle is going to talk about connecting stakeholders in complex ecosystems, using design.

Collaboration Flows in Product Development

Mark Interrante (former Engineering SVP, HPE Cloud Business)

He is going to share a set of stories and tools which helped him and his teams work more effectively in organizations. It applies in a cross-functional way – including design and engineering. And later, support and sales.

He had teams in different locations, with only a thin cable connecting them – sound familiar?  He was leading a small team that was building a site to configure PCs for sale on the web. Other vendors were already doing this with success. A friendly designer told him that it was clear each element on the page was owned by some part of the organization. He was showing an org chart in the design, not what the customer wants. How do we transcend our groups? He found an expert to get some advice, criticism. Jakob Neilsen came to give them feedback. The GM was there, and was appreciative for the feedback. He agreed to help fix it. Cooper helped them understand personas, and build that capability. The next version of the site was nearly ready. Then, they were ramping up for the holiday season. The other silos were doing their thing, but they heard that the call center needed to hire 100 people, fast. That was half the size of the existing organization! They realized they needed to see the 50 call center people using the software they had written. Through observation of the call center employees, they realized they had designed for end-users, but that it was not good for their own call center employees.

We realized what the problem was. It was us.

These large organizations create areas / silos / zones. You want to be focused, have a manager that understands your discipline. There are always people that work ‘over there’ – you don’t see them regularly. How to make that better, and deal with some of those issues.

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We need think about what better is for us. Where are we now? It is like an itch. Some small, simple practices – like “I wish people took better meeting notes”. Culture is what you tolerate. (A quote.). It is the way you work on a daily basis with your colleagues. Those habits – tolerate less rudeness, etc. Pick something next week and tolerate it less. Going forward, we’re doing a little bit less of this. You can make things better within your own team in that way.

What have you been able to do in the last month that is small, and makes a change? Set clear expectations.

Some tools he found useful:

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This is a good approach when you are in an organization and you are trying to figure out how work is happening.  Start to look at the flow of work – just as if you were doing contextual design. Where is there unnecessary waiting? What are the rocks that are blocking work from occurring? How do we share and get feedback? This enables you to figure out what is causing bottlenecks or latency in your system. Research has shown that up to 90% of the time is wait or delay state time. So if you are trying to get faster output, faster production work, the waiting is the first place to look.

The goal was to put their certifications up on the wall, out of an agreed upon list. At the end of the first month, that had earned one trophy.  Ok – it was better than zero!  But he made clear to the team that he was looking for ten certifications a month.  They initially came back and said we need nine more people. So he pulled out the horizontal flow template, and gave them homework to find out what was taking time and how the work could be structured differently. And he said that if they really needed extra people after that, he would make that happen.

Shortly afterwards, the team was able to achieve about 80% of the goal with no extra people. He thinks they can get the last 20% of the way there – and he had confidence that he could move to lower latency, and more certifications on the wall. It was all about engagement, breaking down barriers, and owning the problems.

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Doing this is a way of understanding the boundaries of the organization. The organization is likely vast. You may only connect with some people once every month or two. They are in different, massive functional orgs, like Finance or Sales.

Whenever you are working with someone, assume positive intent from their point of view. They may be against you on some issue, because they are trying to get their own thing done. But they are not against you personally.  That assumption is true 99% of the time. Thinking this way enables you to see it from their point of view. Then you can talk about conflicts – they are not a bad person – and you can solve the problem together.

As their group went from 30 people to hundreds of people, the interactions with outside groups were very ad hoc. There was no APIs for those interactions.  People were saying that the team was complicated, that there were too many roles. They came the conclusion that they needed and API and expose it. What is the protocol for interaction with us?

So he tasked his team to determine the top five requests.  Like a feature change. How do we handle that? Today it’s ad hoc. It’s not good! How do we update documentation? We started to realize we had all kinds of interactions, and the support organization was 3000 people. We needed to have someone to ride the fences. What are the boundaries between our teams? How do we interact better, and more closely? By standardizing some key processes, they increased trust between the organizations … and it was a relief.

Find something that works for you and your partners on the other side of the fence.

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In large organizations, we have to connect between task, work, and the outcome that work will achieve. These are the four most impactful questions that he uses on a daily basis:

  • What do you want?
  • What will it get you?
  • How will you know it’s done?
  • What target goal does this support?

Get a car. Why? Need a ride home. How will you know? Someone will call and say my car is here. And the long term goal? Getting home safely.

You can accomplish the goal more effectively if you know the intended outcome. This is the most powerful little tool he has ever found.

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How do I get someone to actually help me with this?  Simple, precise, and useful – the SCIPAB framework –  Situation, Complication, Implication, Position, Action, & Benefit.

What makes it timely and critical now? And what are the implications of doing (or not doing) something?  What do I propose to happen, and what is the action? And (possibly) what is the benefit of that?  This model is from Mandel communications. He and his teams have used it with great success  to create more ‘yesable’ proposals.

He had land in California, with cattle.  But due to the drought they had to give the cattle away. But then there was rain, and the grass grew. And long grass can create a wildfire. He would like to maintain the field in some environmental way. His team found him (yes, that’s a thing) to eat the grass so it wasn’t a risk.

In closing – start with small things, and let them compound. Find the bottlenecks in your work. If you are missing good partnerships with adjacent organizations, establish consistent touchpoints for key processes. Focus on outcomes.  And use the SCIPAB framework to write a simple explanation when you need to get something done.

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Breaking Barriers with Empathy

Ross Smith (Director of Engineering, Microsoft)

Mark focused on going horizontal. Ross is going to talk about going vertical – connecting executives and customers.

We have been talking about empathy since the 1700s.  Here is quote from Adam Smith, author of Wealth of Nations:Smith 1.pngHow do you get the right things to happen every day?  He believes empathy is the key.  It sticks with you.  An inspirational story with the customer will stick with you.  When they are riding the fence, ranchers will pass each other and stop to tell a story.

There was a story in the news about a small child who left their prized stuffie, Joshie, at the Ritz Carlton.  The staff took pictures of him having a good time, and then sent him home.  The box came with Joshie and a scrapbook.  The story went viral because it resonated with so many people.

Many of us will recall the recent story of someone being forcibly removed from a United airlines flight.

There was also a news story from a Wendy’s in Iowa,  An elderly gentleman with a walker was going to his car, and a cashier bought an umbrella to help him stay dry on the way.

There was also the story of Luka, who bought a great Lego kit, and lost a part because he was carrying it in his pocket.  He received a wonderful letter back from Lego using all the Ninjago language and replacement parts.

Here are two real ones from Skype:

  • Heikki and Linna lived in Norway.  They had been married for 52 years, and she passed away last year.  He was by himself, and he wrote to us in the product feedback that he was able to get through his grieving process by staying in regular contact with his older son and daughter in the US.   The empathy that you have now to think about the importance of your work.  Being able to share these across lets them understand what their work means.  The empathy sticks with you.
  • Sarah Stump and Sarah Paige.  These two girls were each born with one arm.  The mothers found each other, and decided to connect them.  They wrote letters over the years, but as they grew up, they started to drift apart – one in New Zealand, one in the US.  But they found each other again through Skype.  Through their teenage years, they taught each other how to do things like tie hair, do nails.  If I am a designer or engineer, when I see these stories, I am better able to understand our customers.

But stories are not enough.  How representative of the customer is that?  So you also need to bring data to back up your stories.  It is a lot easier to get telemetry and customer data.  This is the kind of information they use in their customer feedback team:

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This helps with prioritization, keeping an eye on new features, feedback from the store, and more.  So, supplement stories with data.  This allows different disciplines to work together in a single, focused way.  You need to bring teams together in a focused way to connect directly with customers.

We have a strong Skype community, and we bring our engineers into those discussions.  There is a split window feature where they can chat, and that resulted in changes to the feature.  So you are working to bridge the gap.

They released a version of Skype for India (low bandwidth).  They wanted to make it easy to accept a credit card.  But after some ‘improvements’, they saw that the transaction volume was decreasing.  They spent some time social listening on Twitter, and the team learned that many of the popular cards on India didn’t have expirations dates.  Great insights from speaking directly to customers.

So, this is his formula:

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Building a Design Culture

Ariel Kennan (Director, Design and Product, NYC Mayor’s Office Center for Economic Opportunity)

A cold night in February, they take the subway to the end of the line.   It can take hundreds of these contacts with the homeless before they are willing to accept support.  How do we bring empathy to the center of our work, which is trying to find housing for the homeless in New York?

When she started a few years ago, it was clear that people didn’t understand the service end-to-end.  So they had to start talking to more people, and bridging the gaps in knowledge.  They needed to be doing discovery, but her higher ups wanted materials and quick decisions.  They had to organize the design work, but bring others along in the process at the same time.

They were fortunate in that the program manager enabled them to talk to many stakeholders.  They learned about policy decisions, budget decisions, daily management, case management, outreach teams, and much more.  And they also had to spend time with the clients directly – the people on these street.  This helped them understand the underlying mental health and substance abuse issues, as well as the experience of people in long term housing.

From their transcripts and notes they created their first journey map.  What are the deep complexities?  Here is the first version of their journey map (which, we learned later in the talk now a 75 page book):

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Working in these lightweight ways (with post-its, for example) is great, but these artifacts are very hard to share.  Her colleagues worked in offices across the city – so they needed to go digital, and fast.  The next version still looked like sticky notes:

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They did this to get a quick win and some room to continue the follow up research, while still showing progress.

From there they did a true digital journey map.  Each dot represents an individual.  That is only one part of it, the complete version is about 20 pages in total.

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They are not the subject matter experts, but they are very good listeners.  So they brought people together to reflect on the journey map and bring a shared understanding.  They asked people to draw on this beautiful artifact – add details, make corrections.

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These people respond to emergencies, don’t always have time to envision the future and what can change.  This approach allowed them to reflect on policy, communication, digital, data.  It gave them chance to dream.

After that exercise, they issued a narrative report to document that shared understanding.  They finally did the detailed journey map, eventually.  It has been a great resource – shows the complexity, the number of steps and people it takes to deliver this service.

Focus on Impact

The goal has been to create empathy up front in the service.  They changed the tone of the service – it is about the people it’s serving, and those delivering the service.

For example, they have had a strong impact on performance management and technology.  They understand the steps and know what needs to be displayed.  They learned that people don’t know what to do when they see someone on the street who is homeless, so that is included too.

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The relationships are also key.  They participate and coach as needed, but the technology team has built on that trust relationship and the knowledge shared with those providers, and they are working largely independently now.

They are also doing work to inform policy.  It was written by another team, but it came to life with the voices of those she researched – something that she is (rightfully!) very proud of.  It includes the journey map, the technology, and speakers to the value of design throughout the process.

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They also hold case conferences to foster dialogue.

Part of what is important is that those successes have established trust for building in new ways.  They’ve made a big impact in a short period of time!  But with 325K public servants, and more than 70 offices and agencies, they still have a long road ahead.   They serve 8.5M New Yorkers.

She joined 2014, and she has been adding team members, but they will never have enough.  So how do we build design capacity, and design culture?

Imagine what these might look like in your organization.  What is your mission, principles, tactics & tools, goals?

  • We have a mission of making public services more effective and accessible for all New Yorkers.
  • Our principles include ensuring that services are co-created, accessible, equitably distributed, and rigorously tested for impact and effectiveness.
  • We have developed tactics & tools to help spread their ideas.  For example, they created the Service Design toolkit for public servants who are design curious.  It is organized with examples, templates, and things to help you learn.  The physical toolkit includes things like markers, sharpies – things you don’t alway find outside of design offices.
  • Goals.  They are now tapping the private sector, and finding ways to take advantage of the great design agencies there.  At the same time, they have to continue to support public servants who want to engage in that work, so that they can oversee it effectively.

In terms of measuring their success and impact, they look at cultural goals like number of people trained, number of designers.  But ultimately it’s about the people they serve. They helped to move 690 people into housing last year alone.

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