Archive for February, 2011

A few posts ago (here) Brian was describing using an influence matrix with a group of Naval Architecture students. He said, ” … they concluded (correctly) that there is stakeholder gridlock. Every stakeholder is waiting for another stakeholder to change first. A profound insight for a student group, and a situation that is rare.”

Here’s another example of a stakeholder impasse. Take a look at this stakeholder commitment chart from an innovation booster in which the UK-based problem owner and participants were exploring a new business model and how it could be “sold” to the rest of the multinational company.

Fig.1 - "We'll never get France on board"

This tool requires you to a) list your stakeholders, b) rate their impact on what you’re trying to do [note that impact of (FR) is much higher than (IT)], on a scale of 1-10, c) gauge the desired level of commitment required from them to move forward on your proposal, then d) gauge their actual level of commitment. The distance between the desired and actual levels of commitment gives you a nice visual of how difficult moving your stakeholder from d) to c) is likely to be.

After carrying out this exercise we invite participants to brainstorm ways of reducing the difficulty of getting the stakeholder on board, or of reducing their impact on what you’re trying to do. This is what they came up with:

(Dislaimer: I apologise for the way in which the French are referred to in this exercise and this does not in any way reflect how I perceive the French, with whom we have worked for many happy years. Bear in mind that you could substitute any other nationality, department, business line, competitor, etc. in this kind of stakeholder tussle and get similar levels of rudeness.)

Fig.2 - "How to get the French on board"

This is also in line with an extensive study completed in 2006, (“Silence Fails” by VitalSmarts) which gives  five core reasons why projects fail, one of which they call “project chicken”:

“This costly game resembles the lunatic practice of driving cars head-on as a test of nerves to see who swerves out of the way first—or who is more “chicken.” The corporate version is played when project leaders fail to admit they may fall short on deliverables and need more time. Instead, they hope some other group that has problems will speak up first. Whoever speaks up first will be blamed for causing the delay, but everyone who is behind will benefit.”

There are two ways I can think of to deal with this kind of situation.

  1. In the case of the above innovation booster, the team with the idea for a new business model ended up developing and implementing their idea “underground”, by creating a ring-fenced project that was able to operate below the multinational radar until the idea had reached a state of maturity, for which it has proved far easier to gain buy-in.
  2. There are a couple of critical questions we ask when we are scoping a problem or opportunity with a problem owner: “What are you, realistically, in a position to do?” and “Do you think there is a solution to this problem?” These are helpful in surfacing the existence of intransigent stakeholders and ultimately helps us decide whether there is an opportunity worth pursuing or not.

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It is Friday, so some subversive thoughts inspired by David Gurteen’s Knowledge Cafe on ‘conversations’ in Edinburgh last night. Use at your own risk. No liabilities accrue to David (or me).

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” Douglas Adams

A tiny Google Android team has just wiped the floor with a 1500-strong Symbian team. Think of all the deadlines, deliverables, missed weekends that the Symbian team suffered to no effect. Maybe a few conversations, or 25 of them allowed to fly, would have been a much more effective use of time.

As Clayton Martenson has pointed out about 95 percent of new products fail in the marketplace. Think of all the family life damaged by meeting launch dates for failures. Perhaps a few conversations with potential customers would have moved some of the 19 failures into the 1 success category.

We have known (scientifically) for nearly a century that longer hours do not result in greater output. This is true for short-cycle repetitive manual tasks, let alone ‘knowledge work’. Robert LaJeunesse “Toward an efficiency week – correlation between shorter workweek and higher productivity”  documents this  clearly. Spending time in conversation may be the most effective thing to do.

A story from Bill Sweetman of Aviation Week is an illustration of the mismatch between time on task and work done:
“In October 1948, a group of Boeing engineers gathered in the Van Cleve Hotel in Dayton, Ohio. In a Friday meeting at neighboring Wright-Patterson AFB, they were told the company’s contract for a turboprop bomber was to be canceled—the same goals could be achieved by hanging jet boosters on the Convair B-36. Over the weekend, the Boeing team developed a better, pure-jet proposal based on new engines, the aerodynamics of the XB-55 medium bomber and the use of inflight refueling. Aerodynamicist George Schairer bought balsa wood, paints and tools from a hobby store and built a scale model to accompany the proposal, which was presented to the U.S. Air Force on Monday. The model, now part of the Museum of Flight collection in Seattle, is recognizably a B-52. Not only was it a successful bomber, but the last successful such program that USAF executed, despite total expenditures in the high tens of billions of dollars. The B-1B is at best a compromise; the B-2 unaffordable to upgrade or support; the supersonic B-58 was an inflexible widow-maker; and the B-70 and B-1A were scrapped before production.”

It’s good to talk. Work Smarter not Harder. Enjoy your weekend.

If you want to know more about conversations, Paul Pangaro’s talk to PICNIC ’10 is a good use of your time.

Thank you, David Gurteen for a stimulating Knowledge Cafe.

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[A word of explanation about the picture. The big circle shows a network analysis of users / customers and a cluster of marketeer / business valuer, technical innovator, and UX / service designer. The yellow arrows show the interactions between this cluster and lead users to enable co-creation. The background to the circle illustrates a customer journey with touchpoints, pain points and moments of truth. The normal linear format for a journey has been changed to circular, reflecting the blurring of product, services and service. Some version of crowdsourcing is in there somewhere. ]

So, we have had Part 1: Power to the Brand, and Part 2: Power to the Process.

This is now-ish, or really-quite-soon. The surrounding ecology is complex with Web, Innovation, Enterprise, Capitalism 2.0. The 3D printing presses are rolling (not literally of course).
Users and customers were never isolated, but now they can start interacting with each other about products and services  more than they ever used to. News travels far and fast – certainly bad news.  User expectations keep going higher (thank you, Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive).
Marketing has changed its focus to Value-In-Use, and  looks at Service, not services or products. Not surprisingly Value In Use has massive overlap with Quality In Use or ‘big’ usability.    Clay Christensen, in Milkshake Marketing, says that “It’s time for companies to look at products the way customers do: as a way to get a job done”
The User Experience (UX) / service designer  interacts with clusters as well as individuals, and understands the Typology of Crowds (Nicholas Carr).  People-watching becomes netnography.   HCD becomes subsumed into User-Centred Innovation. User participation becomes co-creation.
Technical innovation draws on a global network of partners.
Table-stakes for large and medium corporations have become a formal innovation programme with metrics, trained staff and an increasing spend profile.

Bringing together the viewpoints for technical innovation, a business value, and UX / service design looks to be the next challenge. Taking a data-centric view may be the way to crack this.

Lots of questions come to mind.  Can the viewpoints have a mutually understood set of success criteria? Can they use and trust each other’s data? Will the safety element in Quality In Use expand to link with Information Assurance? Can UX people help to put a monetary value on experience changes? Can purpose branding be made to work, and to link with technical innovation? Can business models evolve to support concurrent disruptive and sustaining innovation? Can organizations provide attractors that allow the silos between these viewpoints to dissolve? The working context looks web-based, but the richness of interaction required between participants really needs face to face interaction with sticky notes. How do we balance real-world and remote interaction?

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‘Teh interweb’ arrives and brings complexity in its wake. The MSM has no effective answer to GoogleAds. The High St. under-estimates the threat of online shopping. B2B starts to build online auctions, market-places.
Marketing becomes more automated, cost-effective, and targetted (right-hand side of picture). The long tail becomes tractable. Marketing types worry over how refined segmentation and demographics might need to become.
The R&D lab has been stripped out. It makes greater use of sub-contractors and outsourcing. Faster, better, cheaper, but the same approach. What is this ‘design thinking’ they ask?
The Human Factors lab has gone. Staff are people-watching to identify opportunities for innovation, or doing useful Human-Centred Design (HCD) on real projects.  Good standards, tools, methods.  An iterative lifecycle uses personas, user trials (not experiments), remote trialling and logging, and web analytics (left-hand side of picture). Users are treated as numbers of individuals, and the interaction with users is fairly rich.  The extent of user participation is variable, but co-design is real. No perceived reason for it to be co-ordinated with marketing analysis. The staff do have a key to the R&D lab, are allowed to run workshops with techies, and get invited to meetings.
Product support has become outsourced and off-shored to a call-centre.  Customers and users listen to music and get a call number.
Corporate staff worry about how to use innovation as a discriminator rather than endless cost reduction.

A good set of interviews with Harley Manning of Forrester discuss the linkages between User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience (CX), and help to make the bridge to where we are going in the next post.

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The heyday of old-style marketing: broadcasting to the target demographic, a short tail that is ignored, and clipboard market research.  Users are treated as a segmented collective, aggregated into statistics.
Traditional corporate R&D labs perform the product development, with all the strengths and weaknesses that they bring.  Development follows the traditional ‘V’ shaped waterfall lifecycle.
Old-style Human Factors; the scientists are busy. Actually, they are pretty fed up with being ignored.
The customers and users have real-world Dunbar numbers of social networks. Otherwise the ecology around product development and support is pretty simple.

(Acknowledgement: Thanks for the UX People Templates)

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In defence of HMRC

HMRC has come in for quite a bashing lately, from John Seddon and the Public Accounts Committee report pdf.

One of the criticisms has been lack of end user involvement. From Q42: Dame Lesley Strathie: “If I were to criticise the programme, I would say that the linkages between the programme and the business were not strong enough and, therefore, as we all know in delivering major change, unless you have the end user involved in the design and the testing at every stage you seldom end up with a programme delivering what you set out to do with it.”

This was surprising and disappointing, and there are some lessons to be learned for public sector innovation. The Inland Revenue at Telford had been routinely applying Human-Centred Design (HCD) from the mid-1990’s. In the late 1990s they were the first organisation to undergo a process capability assessment and formal process improvement programme in this area, acting as a test-bed for work leading to International Standards. They deservedly achieved Beacon status in 2002. At that time they had an outstanding track record in delivering IT, and used HCD precisely to make the links between IT, the needs of the users, and the needs of the business. So, the first lesson is that it is possible to go from being genuinely world-class to a laughing stock in a few years if you don’t value what works.

For the 2004 Spending Review, the Citizens Advice Bureau provided a comprehensive critique of the needs of e-Government from a user point of view. This was at a time when e-gov was at the height of fashion. From around then: Douglas Alexander, minister for the Cabinet Office: “The Government is committed to putting the citizen at the heart of e-government. Online government services should be intuitive, reliable, trustworthy and accessible. By ensuring that government websites are designed around the user we will drive up the numbers of people using key services.” Andrew Pinder, the e-Envoy: “It is vital that government websites are as accessible and easy to use as possible. Quality Framework for UK Government Website Design draws on advice from a range of experts and sets out clear guidance for government web managers to ensure they incorporate users’ needs in their web design process.”

The 2004 Spending Review PSAs for HMRC were:
Objective I: Improve the extent to which individuals and businesses pay the amount of tax due and receive the credits and payments to which they are entitled.
Objective II: Improve customer experience, support business and reduce the compliance burden.
Objective III: Strengthen frontier protection against threats to the security, social and economic integrity and environment of the United Kingdom in a way that balances the need to maintain the UK as a competitive location in which to do business.
They were also supposed to achieve 2.5% annual efficiency savings year on year.

The means of resolving the potential conflicts between cost savings, massive new IT, more rigorous enforcement of a more complex tax regime, improved ‘customer’ experience, tighter security were left unsaid. The importance of execution, execution, execution over fine words and targets is well known. For example, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Bob Sutton have documented this in The Knowing-Doing Gap .  Perhaps the most telling account of the conflict between political aspirations and technical reality is the story of the R101 disaster in Neville Shute’s ‘Slide Rule‘.

In 2006, Lord Carter of Coles conducted a review .pdf  of HMRC online services. He noted that “However, to maximise the benefits the services need to be customer-focused, designed to meet the needs of the users, and reliable. … There will be a variety of ways of achieving that goal, but we think that as a principle HMRC should only require use of an online service where the particular service meets the needs of the main users and it has been tested to show that it can meet demand, and provide a good customer experience, at the peak times. Equally, compulsory requirements for online filing should take account of the IT abilities of the main users.”

The recommendations of the review remain largely unfulfilled, so far as I can see. What do we learn from this? External advice is hard to act on? Suggestions please in the Comments.

All in all, very sad, and we need to learn from it.

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Signs that the workshop could have been better prepared:

  1. At the end the problem owner says things like “Well, that was a bloody waste of time, as I knew it would be.”
  2. When the facilitator asks the problem owner if the workshop seems to be going the way he expected, he says things like “You tell me.” or “I can’t see anything that looks like an idea.” or “How am I supposed to know?”
  3. None of the ideas proposed are things that the participants have any authority, experience or competence to implement.
  4. The ideas are all abstract nouns ( improve communication, engage management, define strategy, …).
  5. There is a parade of elephants in the room that everyone is studiously ignoring.
  6. No-one turns up.

Signs that the workshop has not been properly designed:

  1. The participants moan about the activities, the post-its, the pens and mutiny when asked to engage in any kind of “wacky” creative technique.
  2. The day ends before participants get a chance to develop ideas or define plans
  3. Most of the time is taken up by turgid presentations that over-run.
  4. Very few ideas are proposed. A sure sign people don’t understand the question they’re supposed to be brainstorming.
  5. A senior manager is criticizing every idea that is presented.
  6. A senior manager is initialing all his post-its.
  7. Everyone waits to hear what the senior manager says before suggesting or voting for anything.

Signs that the facilitation team is less than well-prepared

  1. The facilitator is telling the participants what kind of ideas they should be having.
  2. The facilitator is criticising the participants’ ideas.
  3. The facilitator is bossing the participants around, or shouting at them.
  4. The participants have split off into pairs or groups and are talking about what they’d rather be doing, paying no attention to the facilitator.
  5. The facilitator clearly has no idea what to do and one of the participants takes over.

Signs that the workshop is doomed from the start

  1. There is more than one problem owner.
  2. The problem owner is not there.
  3. There is no problem owner.

Signs of poor housekeeping guaranteed to knock 50% off the perceived value of the event in the feedback forms

  1. Horrible premises: rubbish food and service, no natural light or view of industrial wasteland, some men in white jump-suits and breathing apparatus carrying a geiger-counter are wandering around the premises (actually happened), no wall-space, terrible acoustics, no technical support, broken furnishings, tables and chairs nailed to the floor, being crammed into tiny a space, no air conditioning, hard to get to, obviously cheap, …
  2. Not enough post-its, flip-charts, pens and/or crap pens that run out or stain everything, no way of sticking flip charts onto the wall, etc.
  3. Logistical issues: people having to rush off before it’s finished, people panicking because they haven’t booked airport transport, …
  4. No name tags,  so no-one knows who anyone is.

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