You can be a part of a brilliant UX team, truly brilliant—skilled, knowledgeable, a team that drinks in giant, thirsty gulps from the UX Kool-Aid fountain—but you can’t win at UX if your activities and successes are accomplished in a domain silo or done in secret. You must engage stakeholders, from up and down the corporate ladder and across the organization if UX is going to be taken seriously. And you must make UX a shared discipline. The best UX teams make sure everyone is drinking from that Kool-Aid because the only way users and customers ultimately win is if UX is an organizational focus, not just the focus of some highly dedicated group, operating in the shadows.
Communication is Everything
It feels like a cliché to even have to point this out but communication is so critical to effective UX methodology it must be stated again and again until it is a standard protocol. Communication must be thoughtful, planned and deliberate. And it must be constant.
- Communicate early: Everyone knows that good communication is critical at the beginning of a project, but it’s also critical to keep communicating. You must set out a clear plan for what you’re trying to do, state how you will do it and outline exactly what you are trying to accomplish. Communication about UX must be grounded in outcomes. Tell the team what are you trying to fix and why. Then tell them again.
- Communicate often: Make a schedule and hold yourselves accountable. Hold monthly meetings or weekly check-ins. Report on progress, on wins and losses, keep the conversation going so that UX starts to feel like a regular part of doing business, a part that cannot be sacrificed as other priorities jockey for position. The more often people hear about something the more they will come to expect and look forward to those updates. Don’t forget that once a project or initiative is rolling you must keep people—particularly stakeholders—regularly informed.
Inclusion is Everything
You know that saying, “No man is an island”? Well it is never as apt as when it is applied to user experience methodology. Do you think the UX “team” only includes the designers and UX researchers and IAs, and other folks from other similar disciplines? If so, your outlook is too narrow. Make sure people across the organization feel like they are part of the UX team. The UX practitioners are the guides, the coaches, the folks who drive the bus to away games, but the UX team is everyone whose work affects the customer/user experience and they need to be included, not just so that you win friends, but also so that you can learn from them.
- Include folks from up and down the food chain: Stakeholders should not be chosen just from the company’s higher ranks. The C-suite is just a starting point. They may be your most important influencers but they are not the end game.
- Include folks from far and wide: Engage employees from across all business units. That mix is critical if you are going to have a team that represents the full experience of the users for whom you are trying to optimize. You might think you have to include simply because for their reach but they are in fact people whose knowledge about the customer/user you can use. Perspective is everything and you need all you can get.
Balance Your Message
UX doesn’t have to always be the wet blanket in the room: “Oh, here comes Debbie Downer again, to tell us what’s not working all along the customer journey.” Don’t just point out the pitfalls, highlight the smooth patches of road and learn from them. The most successful UX teams know how to highlight successes with the same level of enthusiasm as they do the failures that need fixing. This is not just a technique to make people feel better, but to refocus the conversation from negative to positive. Focusing on success in equal measure with failure helps you learn. It’s an important work practice. There are best practices that can be learned from every success point on the user journey. But don’t just highlight those successes. Analyze them and deconstruct them to see what’s working and why. Then spread that gospel of success along with the gospel of a user-centered approach to address the system’s shortcomings.