Selectively Scrappy Research Ops

A Selectively Scrappy Approach to Research Ops
Megan Blocker, Senior User Research Manager, McKinsey & Company

From the Design Operations Summit website:
Megan Blocker will talk about how to decide where to invest your precious time and attention for maximum impact. In other words, where is it most important for your team to get serious about ResearchOps, and where is it okay to stay scrappy? How can you grow sustainably by picking and choosing your battles? It all depends on your goals, your context, and your priorities. We’ll talk about a framework for making those decisions, and about how applying it worked for our growing team.

Meg works for the Enterprise Technology team at McKinsey – things like internal knowledge management, time & expense.  She has been there fourteen years, and for the last four years she’s been focused on user research.  She is going to talk about framework to measure processes and track progress against goals.

They are called Design and Innovation for the enterprise technology function.  They are forty members in just three years.  McKinsey is a 37K person firm.  She was the only dedicated researcher in the organization.  Where should she spend her time for the biggest impact?  How did they decide?

For her, in 2015, she was asked to do concept testing for a financial app.  She figured out they were targeting the wrong set of users, and with the wrong concept. But because she was not able to stay engaged with them, they didn’t take her recommendations.  She was not diplomatic – she almost yelled at them.  And she realized what she was doing was discouraging, not sustainable – and it wasn’t proving the value of what she was doing.

Four factors to consider – Skill, Scale of research talent in your organization, the existing Culture and getting buy-in for achieving your goals, and Buy-in.

She is going to describe what she thinks research operations is – philosophy and practice, tools and infrastructure, insights and strategy, advocacy and outreach, user engagement, and participant management.  So, how do you use these dimensions to decide where to focus?

For the what – on which tools and activities will you focus?  Because she comes from consulting, she will share her point of view in a 2×2.  Based on where your team falls on these dimensions, it should shape where you focus.blocker-01.png

And then there is the how – which is just as important as the what.  You need both money and championship.  If you don’t think about this, you won’t achieve lasting change.blocker-02.pngIn hierarchical organizations you ask for permission, in entrepreneurial cultures, you ask for forgiveness.  McKinsey is definitely a place to try stuff – it’s a partnership, not a corporation.  blocker-03,pngblocker-04.png

In retrospect, the thing she is most proud of was an email campaign that grew their base of users for testing to 1200 people.  Those people also became real cheerleaders for the function.  They also used that access to users as a way to help guide people to the right methods (as a way to manage quality).

Sharing has really moved the needle on buy-in.

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Some of the ways that she is able to measure impact is the shift from training to more consultative services, the fact that the team is growing, and the buy-in.  Changing culture is not the goal – for her, in this specific context it didn’t seem key.  As a result, they are much less scrappy than they were in the past.

blocker-06.pngWorkshops are no longer about research basics, but about deeper literacy in the work of the group.  As they scaled up the design organization, they developed a playbook to improve the consistency of designers.  They are collecting data more systematically, and they have grown from 1200 to 2600 users available to support testing.  They now also track their interests in a database so research requests are more targeted.  In other words, they were flying by the seat of our pants, but are now working more systematically.

That leads to the next wave of scrappy stuff they are working on now. blocker-07.png

They are actively working to mine support data to incorporate into their work, bringing users together with the technology team in hackathons, and now supporting design sprints.  Depending on what works, they will scale some of these up.

Her question for us is How will you get scrappy today?

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