#watchlearn is series of sessions of the Emarsys UX team watching a talk, discussing it, and publishing their notes about it.

When thinking about products, we can define the persona of the people using it. The same way we can think about the type of the organisation we are working with, and we can design the way we design within that organization.

  • A question that frequently comes up: why can’t we make our product look like the same as some other company’s product (like “Make it pretty like my iPhone” “I want the Microsoft ribbon” “Make it like Amazon”)? You cannot take something out of context and expect it to work.
  • Just like this, doing UX in a specific way in an organization doesn’t necessarily work in an other organization. Cultural context should drive how we design.
  • Project issues showing this are symptoms, the real issue is with culture, the shared assumptions and the system reinforcing those assumptions. What’s important, who’s important, what are the things we can and cannot do — these form (real) values, that may differ to what is on the wall.
  • Company values become the UX of the product. (A good example of this is from the book The Disney Way, Disneyland is magical since each employee acts on the same values.)
  • You cannot fake values, you can claim (in marketing), but people will know, they realize if there is a dissonance (like with United). Unfortunately UX values are rarely core values.
  • You can imagine the engine as the real values, and the trailer as the UX values, for example most important is “Keeping the sales team happy”.
  • To find the real values, look for stories (like funding stories), where goes the money, the attention, the time in the organization, and what are some of the assumed limitations.
  • After understanding the values learn to work with them. It is possible to change — but it takes time (years) and effort.
  • Since values shape how we do designs, good to realize the organizational archetypes (based on the Competing Values Framework), based two axis: Dynamic vs Stable and Internal focus vs External focus.

Adhocracy (Dynamic-External): we make up things as we go.

  • General chaos and lack of focus.
  • Might not believe internal expertise.
  • Key is willing to try things
  • Don’t like the word process — you can talk to them about principles instead
  • Lack of process, no clear roles, ownership
  • Values experimentation, they value people with (novel) vision, values passionate generalists.
  • UX professionals = whiteboard ninjas. Let’s make ideas concrete, don’t talk about “process”. Sketching, user feedback work really well.

Clan (Dynamic-Internal): change oriented, inwardly focused

  • Meetings, decisions by committee, everything is slow
  • “Nobody understands our business”
  • Don’t like conflict, just make sure employees have good time and have consensus
  • Don’t value user research.
  • Maximize involvement, minimize conflict
  • Stakeholders: structured check ins, transparent process is needed.
  • UX = everybody own is. Be a coach! “We collectively own the design. Do this together!” Maximise involvement, minimise exclusion.

Hierarchy (Stable-Internal): top-down, large organizations, high education, government, or anywhere where regulations is a big deal (healthcare)

  • Follow the leader, people trained to follow rules
  • Probably have an official style guide.
  • Risk averse, lots of silos with different ownerships
  • If you have executive blessings, you can do your thing.
  • Be an expert in your profession.
  • Rigid process and rigid roles, formal tools,
  • Be a process designer — the more you can formalize, the better you do.
  • Here people will need artefacts
  • Maximize repeatable process & checkins. Have templates.
  • Minimize risk and disruption
  • Lots of structure
  • Value operational efficiency
  • UX = it should be a repeatable process, here a style guide works, they value us as experts in our role, leave us do our thing.

Market culture (Stable-External) looking externally

  • Market is the map, they look at the market for guidance. They prefer data, and quantitative data.
  • They are risk averse
  • Maximize data (especially quantitative)
  • Everything needs to be proved
  • Testing, case studies etc are valued
  • Lots of focus on competitors
  • Emphasis on going fast, lots of time pressure
  • Values near term profit
  • UX = needs to be scientist, should use data a lot to back up arguments, minimize time and risk, look for efficiency
  • Here don’t let humans turn into numbers

So how to approach a project in different cultures? Some tips:

  1. Be a pest: question values
  2. Work with the values
  3. Don’t be ruled by culture

Challenge and push the cultures forward:

  • Clans need role definitions
  • Adhocracies need process
  • Hierarchies need a little disruption
  • Market cultures need more than numbers