Prominent consultants at McKinsey & Co. and bright Stanford and Aalto University researchers have recently published insightful research that helps answer the question: what makes an organizational transformation whose aim is becoming a design-driven company successful? These consultants and researchers have taken different approaches: consultants looking from the top down and researchers, bottom up. However, when you combine their two perspectives, you can get a pretty clear picture of the key factors you must manage to facilitate an effective design transformation. If you are a UX designer, manager, or executive who is interested in changing your organization, you’d better learn these lessons.
As a disclaimer, I admit to having long-term vested interest in the matter. A few years back at the ACM flagship conference SIGCHI, I gave a talk about a design-focused transformation that UX strategy—as we decided to call it at the time—had fueled.
View from the Top
McKinsey has invested much in design-related offerings and has already produced very interesting design analytics such as the Design Index benchmark tool and the design return-on-investment (ROI) measures they derived from it in 2018.
Now, equipped with over 2,000 data points from different organizations, McKinsey consultants have stated that only 10% of companies have reached the full potential of design. In all other companies, design transformations remain partial. Top managerial decisions about how a company approaches design transformation are often behind the failures to get design working for the benefit of an organization.
The McKinsey study finds that there are three major requirements necessary to the success of design, which are rarely found together:
- Design leadership with real power, a budget, and a title to show for it
- Holistic adoption of a user-centric development process throughout company operations
- User-data and design-metrics savvy, through which Design can prove their worth using common indicators
The focus on design leadership cannot be overstated. The McKinsey report is aptly titled Are you asking enough from your design leaders? The point: an effective design leader is possibly the only person within a corporation who has full visibility into all aspects of an end-to-end customer journey, along with the motivation and power to improve it!
With these precursors, design investments can impact the customer experience by helping organizations to discover, design, and deliver better products. However, an organization can realize this product-based vision only through the transformation of the whole organization and when the appropriate design resources are available. This is the second finding of the study.
The third part is making design accountable and commensurate in terms of its output to other corporate functions. Designers need to earn their keep. Despite the creative and fun label that people attach to design, the numbers the company and its divisions rely on must ultimately reflect the importance and value of design. The key performance indicators (KPIs) and ROI calculations would probably need some adjustments to be applicable, but if design is ever to secure the respect and resourcing it requires for stability and maximal impact, we must do this.