Cordell on cultural change

(Don’t you just love alliterative titles?) I noticed this interview by Adaptive Path of our User Experience boss at Cisco, Cordell Ratzlaff:

UPDATE: Here’s the video clip of the talk he gave at the MX Conference recently.

Found this part particularly valuable, about the challenges of inciting and sustaining cultural change around user experience/design:

CR: Ninety percent of the effort is about affecting culture change. The design work is actually the easy part. Transformation tactics that have worked well include:

• Inspiring people with a clear vision. A shared vision that people are excited about will take on its own momentum

• Setting high standards and sticking to them. We’ve sought out opportunities to point out that the old way of doing things is not acceptable

• Persistence. Change is hard and corporate inertia can be difficult to overcome. It’s much easier to manage the status quo than to enforce change. Senior leadership communicates and reinforces the benefits of making this transformation every chance we getDelivering and celebrating successes along the way has helped everyone see that all the hard work associated with the change is worth it.

That’s at the high level, which I totally agree with. Being one of the soldiers in the trenches, I’ve been doing the following to enable what Cordell describes:

• Create high quality deliverables: make those wireframes, mockups, flow diagrams look extra sharp and communicative! show that you design your own deliverables too and not something just spit out at the end…people notice that.

• Provide clear, efficient readable specs and supplemental materials: demonstrate that design functions at the mundane level as well as the “cool features”

• Take a stand on feature-creep and forcing questions at reviews: purpose, value, motivations…forces everyone to realize that UX is valuable and plays at every level of the “product development” game, not just personas at the beginning, and specs at the end, but a fully involved player

These aren’t big things like training sessions and giant posters (which we hope to get to do someday), but I think if you want to spread awareness, understanding, and appreciation, you gotta start with being the model yourself and then hopefully people will see it and respect you for it, and just maybe join in the fun. These are some simple, small actions that cumulatively can help spread design goodness!

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