5 tips to shift your organisation's culture to be more people-centric

By Janelle Lim

Change is not new to many organisations and "transformation" has been the buzzword in recent years. All of us understand that change is necessary for organisations to improve performance, remain competitive and be equipped for the long haul.

However, there are many challenges to overcome when leading an organisational change. Transformation champions face resistance from creatures of habit, the scale of projects and stakeholders. Kudos to those who have experienced more success than others!

In light of the difficulty expressed by many leading the transformation process, Foolproof organised a fireside chat with those who have experienced some success in transformation projects. We wanted to learn from their experiences shifting organisational cultures through experience design, exploring some of the challenges they faced and the ways they've overcome them.

This event ran in conjunction with Singapore Design Week 2018. Leslie Fountain, our Managing Director chatted with 3 stakeholders, namely, Lisa Val Verde, Marketing Manager from Medtronic, Maik Lutze, Experience Design Lead for APAC & EMEA at Citi Fintech, and Phil Carmalt, SVP, Senior Regional Sales, GTS at DBS bank. 

Through their discussion I’ve distilled 5 tips that organisations can take away to help shift their organisation's culture to be more people-centric. 

Tip #1 Find your UX champions

We need people who will champion and drive change. Medtronic, Citi Fintech and DBS are all moving to put their customers at the heart of their design process. To do this, organisations need people or teams who are emblems of that change to the wider organisation. These UX champions' voices, work and sheer presence become a reminder of change to the rest of the organisation. 

Medtronic designs medical technology and has since adopted a people-centred strategy in their design process. Lisa spoke about organisations where the marketing and R&D teams work in silos. The marketing team presents their product requests and requirements to the R&D team, and then the marketing team would go away and only check back months later. This does not work. At Medtronic Diabetes, the design process is a collaborative and iterative process between a cross functional team which includes marketing, R&D and Human Factors. They set up a team of Human Factors Engineers who champion people-centric design, and bridge collaboration between marketing and R&D.

While DBS’s leadership has been driving the cultural transformation, the innovation team is always on the ground to empower people to make the change. Unlike most organisations, the responsibility of innovation at DBS is not confined to innovation labs, sandboxes, or individuals. The team is integrated into the rest of the business, providing the design framework and education to help the rest of the bank innovate. For example, an agile coach is attached to each journey team to help them progress from ‘doing’ agile to ‘being’ agile.  

At Citi Fintech, the UX champions are none other than Maik and his team. As someone who was involved in setting up the Experience Design department at Citi Fintech, Maik is instrumental in influencing how the company thinks and feels about the emotions of their customers. 

Tip #2 Get buy-in 

The key to getting buy-in from other departments, or even senior management is to first earn their trust. I’ve outlined a few ways that trust can be built according to our panellists. 

Firstly, prove it. Maik spoke about the importance of proving to people what you can do for them. Don’t just say it, do it and prove it! UX professionals may speak a different language from colleagues in other business units whose concerns are about meeting KPIs. That is the reality of business. His teams pride themselves on their ability to empathise with customers, but have at times, failed to empathise with their colleagues. The key is to show you understand your colleagues' problems, and prove that UX can help them achieve their business objectives. 

Secondly, communicate the “why” and involve those affected by the change. Phil shared his experience as a beneficiary of an internal project transforming the working space in DBS to spark collaboration and ideation – a project they called Joyspace. With the entire departments working space being renovated, the change impacted everybody. Each team nominated a change champion to be their voice in raising ideas, feedback and questions. Through frequent communication, all staff understood the vision they were working towards, which motivated the team to get through the temporary inconveniences during the renovation. It was not easy, but because the communication and engagement was great, the whole floor supported project Joyspace and it is now a space that everyone is proud to own. 

Thirdly, show your support physically. Maik says that in an age of digital collaboration and with emails as the main form of communication, we almost forget the value and impact of being physically present. Being physically present with the team that you are working with reflects your sincere desire to understand their problem, and that you are willing to make their problem, your problem. This makes them feel that you are invested in their concerns and the KPIs they have to achieve. Gradually, you’ll earn their trust.

Tip #3 Hone your storytelling skills 

To sell your ideas effectively, you need a good narrative and a splash of creativity. Maik’s advice is to dump your Powerpoint decks because they don’t have a soul. 

While you may have front row seats to listening and feeling the emotions of your customers in user research, it is unlikely that the C-suites or higher management have had the same opportunity. Consider, therefore, how you can bring your experience, from the front row seat, to them. 

Maik’s way of helping people realise and feel the emotions is to act it out. He recalled having meetings with management when he only had a prototype on his phone. He assumed the character of a typical customer and presented the use cases of the product through the lens of a customer. You won’t need an Oscar award to help your audience see and feel the joy and frustrations of using a product. Be human about it! 

At Foolproof, we always consider the needs of our audience before deciding how we should frame our presentation. The presentation can take the form of a war room, a role-play, a video, a demonstration of a prototype, etc. Be creative!

Tip #4 Create organisation-wide empathy for your customers 

Most organisations spend a significant amount of time, effort and cost on user research and usability testing. Needless to say, it is a shame to contain these valuable customer insights in UX or product teams. You can make the most out of your investment by sharing the insights with the wider organisation to create empathy for your customers. 

I appreciate the effort Medtronic puts into sharing that knowledge across their offices worldwide. Medtronic's Diabetes User Experience Centre is open to every employee to experience the impact of their technologies on patients. Development teams can even listen to pertinent user research in their onsite user research facility. Quarterly, they invite patients to a theatre on their grounds to speak about their experience. This, again, is an open invitation to the whole organisation regardless of their role or background. On top of that, the corporate Medtronic Holiday Program invites patients to share their experience, which Medtronic then broadcast across the world. 

In DBS’s Treasury Prism customer journey, the team interviewed over 50 customers and industry stakeholders. The verbatim was presented directly to their CEO and reinforced in staff communications to help build organisation-wide empathy and develop alignment toward their customers’ voice. Selected customer quotes were pasted up in the project room as a constant reminder of who they were solving the problem for. 

Tip #5 Celebrate success 

Last but not least, celebrate the team’s hard work. After the launch of their MiniMed 640G insulin pump system for diabetic patients, Lisa shared Monday Motivation communications where she would remind the team of the purpose of their hard work by showing them the fruits of their labour. 

She would collect testimonies from the regional teams and stories from social media, and share them with the R&D team to remind them how people are benefitting from their technologies. Now in her APAC regional role, Lisa has shared positive patient experiences and testimonials to the R&D team (located in the U.S.) after the launch of the Guardian Connect System in APAC, a smartphone app-based continuous glucose monitoring system.

For me, the act of celebration is more than just motivation. It is validation of the people-centred process. It is making your organisation more human on top of just numbers and KPIs. It is helping the organisation see and feel the impact of their work on the lives of real people.  

Your efforts to shift your organisation will be validated when people in your organisation begin to speak the language of their customers and have them at the heart of their conversations and decisions. Good luck in your transformation journey! If you have any questions about shifting your organisation's culture to become more people-centric please do get in touch.

Janelle Lim

My role as a Consultant is to collaborate with both people (not users!) and businesses to identify experience design opportunities that brings commercial value.

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