Leading Through Change

Purvi Shah
Head of Global Strategic Design Operations, Visa

From the DesignOps Summit website:
Change can be difficult no matter which stage of design maturity your company is experiencing. Chances are, you will be in a position of leading through change at some point in your organization’s evolution. This could be a smaller change such as migration to a new process or something bigger such as a large scale transformation effort, as I have been. During this session, I will share some of my own learnings that apply no matter the stage, scale, or change you are championing.

Purvi is also running a global strategic design transformation effort. She has been a hands on design practitioner that has been solving complex design problems for the past 20 years. Back then, UX wasn’t a thing because companies were still trying to figure out what ‘experience’ meant. Fast forwarding to today, however, companies of all sizes and types are doubling-down on design and experience.

We have reports from McKinsey, Forrester, and Invision which have helped us quantify that organizations that are design-led have an ROI of greater revenue, shareholder value, and increased speed to market. But not every company is where they want to be on that journey, nor able to fully benefit from what design has to offer. Lingering stakeholder perceptions, legacy systems, and old cultural vestiges can not only impact the doing of design, but ultimately the value that design can bring to your organization. 

The Danish design ladder:

The organizations that are at Level 4 understand that design is embedded in the strategy – it’s a given.

At Level 1 there is no design (or it’s an afterthought), while at the other extreme, design is key strategic driver for enabling company-wide innovation.  By a show of hands, almost no-one believes they are operating all the way to the right. To operate at Level 4, we have to build the muscle – it takes planning, work, focus. If companies don’t undestand the value of design, we have to build those muscles across the whole company.

At Visa they have a lot going for them, but until 18 months ago, they didn’t have a centralized design function, and they weren’t capitalizing on the scale at which they were operating. They have made progress quickly, in part due to good support from the top:

This a pretty big signal:

Purvi is lucky to work for an organization that understands the value and impact of design. It makes sense, when you look into the ecosystem (or even in this room), we know that design is the differentator. In the FinTech landscape there are many players that are all delivering elegant human experiences – they get what drives the best consumer experiences: Transparency, Control, Personalization, Instantism. Using a human-centered approach to deliver business results is what we all need to be doing.

Design at Visa is now in 15 locations around the world. They work in two main areas – on client-facing design services, and on the design and development of payment products for their clients and partners to consume. They create building blocks to enable those experiences for the entire ecommerce ecosystem.

It is a sizable body of work, 200+ countries and territories, and $11T total volume. They have been a growth company since it’s founding 60 years ago, which is wonderful but also presents challenges – there are patterns of thought that are fixed, outdated. There is work at every level, with every stakeholder, every team.

Some of the things they’ve focused on:

  • Unified culture, community of practice, and increasing visibility of the team’s work
  • Invest in talent, growth, and capacity
  • New ways of working, metrics and measurement, and unlocking value

It’s not the vision that will get us there – it’s the roadmap, and an understanding of the infrastructure, organizational assets, and the people.

Some of Purvi’s recommendations:

It’s imperative that you understand your ecosystem. How what is going on externally is informing internal change – service design ecosystem mapping. It is critical to know the people, systems, and processes in order to make lasting and meaningful change. What about Legal, HR, and Finance? You need to evolve the how the organization thinks about design. Approach with curiosity and empathy. There was no design job family, for example. How hard could it be? But they started to realize that it was a huge workstream. We had to understand HR frameworks, how they were thinking about systems and how to fit within it.

Work from within. Find smaller, incremental ways to work towards your goal. Look for shared initiatives or priorities. Figure out where you can embed design within the priorities of your stakeholders. Some will have never worked with designers before. Folks beyond design need to understand the value and how they can work with us. They have an initiative underway to change how the conceive, develop, and deliver new solutions at Visa. They are infusing design in that process and asking big questions like: When design is engaged? What are the right staffing ratios? The right outcomes? Not just to create alignment, but to have stakeholders understand how design works.

Get clear on motivation. Drill down to the nuances of your initiative – understand WHY before WHAT. She likes the Jobs to be Done framework to understand what people are trying to accomplish, and why. If you want to bring your senior leadership into the process, learn what motivates them and make it personal – make it about them. What does it have to do with their role, their function? How will they be supported along the way? Lasting change requires winning hearts and minds.

Pace yourself. Increasing design maturity means making time and space under ambiguous conditions. Be bold, and have patience – lasting change can’t be rushed. Be thoughtful as you work up to those big, bold moves. Check in often with your design teams, your stakeholders, and yourself. Like research, make sure you get plenty of feedback along the way. Positive and lasting change is like that too.

Having purpose is key – for our users, yes, but for our designers and stakeholders too. It’s not just building a better product, but a better team, a better culture, and a better company too. We need to bring that empathy to our teams, out stakeholders, and our companies. That is what leading change is all about.

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