Transformation of business from the inside out
Thoughts from Leah Ryz, straight talker, UX trouble shooter, and business consultant. First published on LeahRyz.com.
I’ve heard it said that ‘You never quit a bad business, you quit a bad manager’. That is very often true, but not always. Sometimes you can have the best manager in the world – and the best relationship with that manager – but if the business is unwilling or unable to change to give you what you need, you still have to move on.
The thing is, it’s always the people who make a business successful. That is true across all industries, all business models and (as far as I have seen) all possible contexts. I mean, if you’re the only company making a truly better mousetrap, the world may well beat a path to your door – for a time. They’ll resent it, and they’ll try hard to find your product or service in a much more convenient, user-friendly, accessible manner. If that doesn’t work, one or more of them will just go off and make their own mousetraps the way they know the customer wants, stealing your market.
On the other hand, if you keep a group of subject matter experts about, making them responsible for ensuring that your product, service or any other kind of mousetrap is amazing not just technically but also in a UX context, you’ll have some incredibly loyal customers.
With that in mind, your organisation might just want to bend over backwards to keep those amazing UX people loyal too. …after all, how long will your business last without them, now?
It’s trendy to be user-centred, but are you employee-centred too?
Not that I’m against that trend. For the most part, it has been a good move for many different industries. Nonetheless, those industries are only changing on the face, and their internal structures can be positively ‘19th century’. Really good UX people… don’t like that.
If you’ve taken the concept of user experience to heart, then you know how to design for context. You know how to make sure your users engage with your offering regardless of their environment. The iPad user is equally happy plopped on the couch, sardined into a train or sat at a desk. Apple made sure that they have a consistent, enjoyable experience regardless of context. A lot of businesses have learned (from Apple and from others), and design for this specifically. Again, that’s good, in and of itself.
But they don’t design their other major product (work) for their most important market (employees). They insist on employees being formally dressed and keeping strict 9-6 office hours. They hate the very concept of flexible schedules and remote working. They probably only entertain the concept of maternity or paternity leave to the extent that they are required to do so by law.
A lot of you are simply nodding your heads right now. You should be bloody perplexed!
This attitude has always struck me as bizarre. You absolutely need your team to remain motivated to excel, to make your business excel. You NEED them to be excited to work for you, and eager to take on the next challenge. You need to sell this job to them the same way you sell those widgets! And you do that by making it GOOD for them. But that’s not what most of you do. You force them to choose between ‘work’ and ‘life’. The very concept of ‘work/life balance’ implies that you aren’t really alive for 9 hours a day. You financially incentivise them to spend more time at work than is healthy for them for their relationships, or for their ‘real life’.
Does that ‘sizzle’? Could you sell that product?
Not today you can’t.
The days of the “…or your family will starve” model of motivation are long past.
It’s simply not enough to transform on the surface. That’s just putting lipstick on a pig. You need to understand the disparity between trying to hire (and then keep) the trendy, high profile designers and then shoe-horning them into these 1950s work patterns. You won’t keep good UX people that way. I mean, how are you even keeping good marketing people that way? ARE you keeping good marketing people that way? Not for long.
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