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Podcast Transcript

Hello, welcome to another episode of This is HCD. My name is Gerry Scullion, and I’m a Human Centered Design Practitioner based in Sydney Australia. Before we jump in however, as this podcast was recorded in Sydney C.B.D. I’d like to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation as the traditional custodians of the land where we meet today and pay respect to their elders, both past and present. In this episode, we caught up with Jenni Philippe who is GM of Service Design at Telstra, Australia’s largest telco.

In this episode, we ask the big questions about human centered design and large organizations. Why design teams alone, are not enough to become customer lead, and why we need to look at a sustainable way to scale human centered design in organizations.

Thanks to the guys at More than Metrics, who have given us another 40 euro voucher for our community, More than Metrics own mrthinkr.com an online store for service designers and design thinkers. The keyword to send in is persona. So the links and contact details to be with a chance to win that are in the show notes. So let’s jump straight in.

GERRY: Today in the podcast, we have Jenni Philippe, who’s the G.M. of Service Design from Telstra in Australia. It’s one of Australia’s largest telcos, or is it the largest telco Jenni?

JENNI: It is the largest!

GERRY: It is the largest telco, and also joining Jenni on the show we got Scott Howard who is the customer experience design director for Q.B.E. Delighted to have you both on the show.

JENNI: Thanks for having us Gerry.

GERRY: So Jenni, let’s kick off. Tell us a little bit about your involvement with human centered design and also your role at Telstra.

JENNI: Sure. So I’ve been at Telstra for a couple of years and had different roles and have evolved around, always at human centred design. But most recently, I have a team who is looking after service design activities, cross channels and cross products. So quite agnostic of any particular area, but just looking at the customer themselves. Also have the part of the team looking at building human centered design capability as a skill and a mind-set and culture for the organization. And then a 3rd group looking at embedding, testing and evaluation throughout the entire lifecycle of a product or a service development to ensure that we’ve bringing that objective point of view and the customer in as much as we can.

GERRY: Excellent. Scott?

SCOTT: Yes. So I basically look after the customer experience team. But the focus is human centered design, and there’s a real intent around that, to really bring the customer to the center. About what we do is basically what Jenni’s team does. Maybe a little less evolved to mature, but we have service designers, business designers, researchers, and so on. And we do from strategy through the end to end delivery. And we figure out where we do that across the business for the maturity and the readiness is there, and where we can help.

GERRY: So today, we’re going to discuss why customer experience teams is not enough to become customer led, and why we need to look at a sustainable way to scale human centered design in organizations.

So, looking at organizations and also referring back to Jared Spool’s the UX Tipping Point presentation which I recently saw. What are the organizational behaviors to look for when an organisation doesn’t have any human centered design activities going on?

JENNI: I’d say what I’ve observed in in my career is that companies are very focused on metrics in business driven outcome and financials. And where the HCD is not mature. It is really difficult because you don’t always have metrics in the beginning to demonstrate what HCD can bring, and it kind of shuts the door quite often. So behavior around that are quite challenging because they will prove it to me. And until you’ve actually given the space and the time to prove it, by just going through the process and showing how different it is, then it kind of turns in circle a little bit, so that some of the behaviors I’m observing. It’s kind of not letting go of certainty around what we already know, and how we like to operate.

SCOTT: I think it is one step just beyond what Jenni mentioned, which is, some organizations think, they’re thinking about a customer. But actually they are just thinking about themselves. As if they are the customer. So I think the first phase is to actually put them in the customer’s shoes, and we talk a lot about walk in their shoes, or see the world through their eyes, so a lot of that is the change and awareness phase first before you can get towards the permission to play and actually get involved in that part of the business, actually start doing design.

GERRY: So what kind of activities work well at that level when you’re trying to demonstrate the benefits of human centered design?

SCOTT: Sometimes show tactics. Pulling out those real customer stories, taking those metrics that Jenni mentions, instead of a percentage. What is the real number? How many real people are actually experiencing this whether it’s retention, pay points or whatever, making it real however you can, so you can use our design skills there at visual design, storytelling role-play whatever it takes but it’s going to be uncomfortable.

GERRY: What about you Jenni? At Telstra, is there any tactics that you have used to try to get the stakeholders involved?

JENNI: Yeah. We have lots of opportunities now that are offered to anyone in the business and also most particularly for leaders and at the moment, we have this amazing out program that one of my colleagues is driving around customer complaint immersion, and any c level type of person is taken through a whole experience and actually engaging with a real customer issue, talking to them, obviously not saying that they’re a leader or anything. And just having to experience with the customer what’s going on, and helping them resolve the problem. Having that first hands experience with them is really confronting and very eye opening and I can see on the floor after that time spent with the customer and then following up personally, calling back making sure everything is working and also taking actions in terms of changing what’s not working well in the organization. Challenging the processes that we have or the policies that we’ve put in place for probably no reason or that kind of outdated now.

GERRY: Okay. So just looking at from an organisation perspective who are not mature from a design perspective, tell us what does a high functioning human-centred design at a large organisation looks like?

JENNI: From my perspective, it is embedded at every level of the organization. It starts really with the mindset. So from the leadership and all the way down to you know, it’s’ how people think about the customer and their real empathy that they would have for them and for the employee. And some really great places where you can see that coming out very specifically, Disney is a really good example, where everyone is a cast member, it’s all about the customer experience. This policies and processes is in place, but then it’s really empowering individuals to make the right decision when it needs to be made, and it’s observing what the customer is doing, and really getting into their reality. And I see where it’s high functioning is really in every role, but it’s not just the talk, it is also the doing, and it’s enabling people to try out and trusting that they make the right decision that level of trust is quite critical I think.

GERRY: So going back to the topic of like human-centered design at scale. In your experience was educating the board or say the stakeholders the very first step, or take more like the Atlassian model of trying to get the core people/adopters who are going to use your product?

JENNI: I think it’s both. I don’t think it can be successful if it’s one or the other. So there’s definitely a ground-up movement I can observe in some organization and certainly at Telstra where there’s a lot of people now really embracing the techniques and the mindsets. But then it’s also very strong leadership support is required for that. And it’s that deep understanding of what that means from a leadership point of view, it’s not about teaching your CEO how to do customer research or even the graphics research all the stuff, that’s not relevant, it’s more the mindset and the leadership attribute done and they will design and that brings in the customer and humans really more than customers it’s also that empathy for your people and it if you make those two things happen concurrently, then you get something quite amazing.

GERRY: So do you bring stakeholders and the people who are actually doing the work together on projects, as in actual live projects?

JENNI: That’s a way you could do that. I think it will depend on the culture, the current culture of the organization. Some leaders would need to be taken to quite have a flashy trendy place like Stanford and really be immersed in that prestigious environment to really…

GERRY: Stanford DSchool type stuff.

Jenni: Yes, stuff like that. But then also taking them through the real life of customers embedding them into testing sessions on the other side of mirror seeing what’s going on, that’s kind of the combination of both inside the theoretical in feeling that you’ve got this on your resume now any you can talk about it, but they’re not supposed–

GERRY: Design thinking and design doing.

JENNI: Exactly.

GERRY: Two different worlds. What about you Scott, at QBE what’s worked?

SCOTT: I think there is a piece around. It is one thing to sort of say allow design and designers into organisation, it is another one to fully embrace it. So to really get it and have that penny drop so what has actually worked for us, one example is we do human centered design crash course training as an awareness campaign if you like. But we get our senior most senior leaders involved in that to. And it’s a cookie cut course if you like, it’s an abstract product nothing to do insurance or QBE but it does show that process and there’s a few key points we make through in that so I hopefully the penny does drop. That this is a methodology that can add value and solve a different kind of problem in a very different way, that’s quite different to what QBE has done before.

GERRY: So like, looking at the training at a granular level, the training that you provide to the stakeholders is obviously going to have to be a bit different to the training you provide to the people who are the doers. What’s the goals for the stakeholders first versus the doers, and what have you noticed?

SCOTT: So for us, for the stakeholders, it’s about awareness and acceptance. And we kept that process with the mantra that if a first aid course doesn’t make you a doctor, so you’ve got a few tools and you might know what to do, and it might save your life one day. But, you also know when to call us when you need the experts and you really need to dive deep. But it’s a very tricky balance and I think it’s unique to every organization of what’s actually right.

GERRY: Yes, because I’ve seen in certain organizations, Governments in particular, where the people on the floor are going to some design training, and then they come back with their piece of paper and then they sit there all excited and they’re buzzed. This activity can do two things, it kind of makes the role of the actual designer more difficult, but also than potentially it doesn’t serve the organization any better because they just go back into their old behavioral and cultural ways of working. So how do you avoid that happening?

SCOTT: We are looking to evolve of what we’re doing on that front to offer a mentoring model. So we do, do that training, but then we do the check-ins and a little bit of mentoring. It sort of helps the scale a little bit too. So that helps us extend our capabilities that others can do to some extent human centered design, or at least be more human centered in what they do. We are not measuring it at the moment, but anecdotally of the people who come through that course and then really using the tools that we’ve given them, because there is still some confidence to build as well. So people do get stuck in and runs human.

GERRY: Jenni, do you have anything to add to this?

JENNIE: Yes, I’ve looked on that we’ve had a few test and learn opportunities and we’ve definitely at some point where in the training space only, and that doesn’t work. You can equip someone for a day and you know as I said is either to believe that they know it all and they can do it, or the actual inability to do anything with it because then they go back into an environment and a system, not a technology, but a system that stops them from doing anything they’ve learned. And then, there’s that frustration that might come across, those that believe that actually I’ve been exposed to all these fun stuff really want to do it. I don’t think I can do this here and then you might lose a great champion, so it’s really a combination of training into Scott’s point mentorship, coaching, on the job experience, which takes effort in and you do need to have a dedicated team coming in projects with those guys to give them support so they don’t feel that it is all on them, but they’re also in parallel, there is a lot of other work that needs to happen in the organisation, from a head shot point of view and looking at KPI’s job description when we hire people so we can bring in that skill set first thing next time, there’s also all these systemic issues that need to be addressed, and that’s where leadership is critical so through awareness around HCD. We also need to bring awareness around the flows of the system that the leadership is supporting you know, that hierarchy called approach doesn’t work. Empowerment, empathy, playing fast, all these stuff needs to change. You need to change your capital planning process, you need to change your resourcing approach, your need to change your structure operating model, so lot of things that need to happen for it to be successful.

GERRY: And especially at the size the organizations of both you guys are working at. If you were to set up something like an innovation lab, I have had that terminology being used quite a lot in Australia, by the time you get people through that innovation lab once– you guys are tens of thousands of people working for you. It is almost like the guy who is painting the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, when he finishes on the one end, he has to go back to the other end and start painting again. So how do you ensure that that’s not the case that they’re constantly learning when they go back to their desks?

JENNI: So what we’ve found actually interestingly, is that there’s a lot more human centered design people across the organisation that the old structure might say, or the, that Central Customer Experience team there but then–

GERRY: You’ve got Mark here…

JENNI: We’ve got Mark here, we’ve got literally probably, hundreds of people that have skills and capability in that space. It’s really about how do you build that champion network. And the line language framework because you all have our own ways of working in our pockets of the business and we’re going to through activity at the moment. It’s so interesting because we’re not hang up on some things, we all want the same outcome, so in bringing those forces together. So then, whoever goes through training and coaching has buddies around the business to it, it’s not all down to that central function. It’s kind of [inaudible], if we just look at it that way.

GERRY: Yeah.

JENNI: So it’s building that network and letting– success there is great, so then leadership wants more, and they hear about something amazing that has been done in that areas like, “Oh, I want to do these too.” And that kind of builds up.

GERRY: a ground swell…

SCOTT: There’s another slant on that to which you haven’t quite touched on, which is you need to train some of the people in the business to be designers, who have experience within the organization. And of the networks and connections, and obviously the aptitude to be a fully-fledged designer, we’re finding that’s really important. At QBE, we can’t just hire externally and bring in designers, it just won’t work.

GERRY: Why is that? Subject matter expert knowledge?

SCOTT: Knowledge yes, but also the networks and understanding because it’s a very relationship driven organization as most are. To be able to effect an outcome if you like, we need people who have experience in the business, as well as experience in human centered design and ideally we want both. But we’re quite conscious of that mix, so that is one time, when yes we do actually need to train non-designers, have they aptitude to be human centered designers, to enable those design outcomes.

GERRY: That’s really interesting because my next question was about the involvement of human centered design moving from that sort of Ground Zero place as the maturity increases. Have you seen the role of the designer, I say designer like UX Designer service designers, and I’m using those roles interchangeably, how does that change on a day to day basis? What do they have to do differently?

SCOTT: One thing we were saying from when we started was came in expecting we’d be able to line up design projects and do them. What we’re finding is we need a lot more strategy, although I don’t really like the term strategic designer, we kind of all have to be, to be able to end up in the position where we can do successful projects, and a lot more change. So, a lot of it is about the change journey inspiration and whatever words you want to use. As a sustainable team, we need that capability almost more than service design. We can even potentially outsource that and bring others in. And if we haven’t set the scene and got the permission to play, doing the actual design is a bit useless. And beyond that, I would say we need to know where it’s going to be impactful. So we could do a great app for a particular product line, might be a really fun project that I’d love to do myself. But, the impact on the business be really minimal and that could actually be detrimental to their case for design.

GERRY: So prioritization of ideas and desirability, feasibility, viability…

SCOTT: Yes absolutely the kind of before you start playing in a sudden space, you got to pick your space to play and we’re not nearly as complex as Telstra, but both are complex businesses with distribution channels lots of products and so on.

GERRY: So many designers are in both your teams like overall in your organization, how many designers do you have?

SCOTT: So we have a digital team as well as, let’s say less than ten, but we have less than ten designers, in an organisation and actually globally, of over fourteen thousand,

GERRY: Wow. Jenni?

JENNI: So in the customer experience design team there’s less than ten people, and then there’s groups of designers across the business and also people with customer experience title everywhere. There’s a massive aerial so-called cluster digital there’s lots of UX designers as well. There is probably hundreds but not under, operating under one prioritization activities we’ve everyone as you said Scott, I couldn’t echo more all the stuff that you said before. That coordination and the strategic vision so bringing those strategy roles, corporate strategy, channel strategy, product strategy that again, is so many roles across the business and then per line of business, they’re all going doing their own thing. Only that human centered design approach into strategy, that’s where we start. And then we build that common vision across the board and every one can bring it to life and execute it in their own environment, but it is that sense of bringing it together.

GERRY: So to get the vision across and we discuss a little bit of the role of the designer changing depending on the maturity of the organization, so if an organization wants to become more design centric or human centered design focused, why not just hire more designers?

JENNI: First of all, there is probably not enough designers on the market in Australia for sure even if you outsource it and bring it from all around the world, but then also you need that combination of things. I think Scott touched on that before you need a combination of skills and it’s not pure designers that you need, it’s people with the right mind-set and some of those tools and activities that you do in human centered design, but you also need to business acumen, you also need agile, you need lean startup, you need so many other skills that come together. It is that cross functional diversity being brought together that makes the business more successful because we think outside of the box and we don’t take things for granted and having just designers won’t cut it. So it’s really evolving existing roles embedding designing it but also embedding in agile, and embedding other techniques that all together start from the strategy, to designing it, to delivering. That’s what you need. And that change is massive as well.

So a change capability is incredible, it’s the capability to deal with uncertainty, and constantly challenge how you work and how you think and being able to do that.

It’s almost not a capability, it’s a cool thing in people’s DNA, really hard to recruit for.

Scott: I sort of echo with that. And that a designer isn’t a designer, you can’t just go out and get a designer. There is no two designers that are the same, that have the same background. We’ve actually, we as an organization have struggled with that. When we use to hiring under writers and so on and so forth, where there’s a far more logical career path to try and pick the right designer first and foremost, there aren’t many of those in the market.

So for us, it’s like a start-up but within a big organization. So we kind of need to be comfortable in both it’s very unclear. We don’t know how this is going to work, a designer is maker fundamentally, in my opinion any way. But he might not be able to do any making for maybe a year. You have to lay all the groundwork. So you got to be up for that. So this narrows the pool massively. So that’s one reason you can’t just hire more designers. The other reason is you need- seeing it a lot lately permission to play not just, “Okay, fine. We’ll do human centered design and yes you can come and work in my palette of business, but I get it and I really want you guys to mess with my business and tell me is experts what we should do.”

This is really big piece to I think around if you’re doing design properly, there are multiple points where you don’t know what the answer is going to be. And that’s really uncomfortable. And the way we probably all deal with that is through experience. I can remember the first few times, and I’ve seen in some of the newer designers where it’s scary, and the way you get through it is based on experience and trusting a process as cheesy as that might sound. But to scale that in an organization, we don’t know the answer. That’s really tough. I don’t think anyone’s really nailing that.

Gerry: Yes. It’s also the experience to be able to say, “I don’t know.” it’s taken me a long time to have to go look I don’t I don’t know what to do here, you know, “I need help.” That’s been the biggest– and even me saying this now. Well i’m going, “Oh my God.” It’s a hard thing because for a long time you had to put on the facade of saying, “I know everything. I can fix everything.” But in organizations it’s going back to Jenni’s point about the stakeholders making them feel comfortable enough to hear that. Like if a stakeholder hears that the person does know what they’re doing but doesn’t show lack of confidence it shows more confidence in my opinion.

Scott: Whether you’re external or internal, you’ve got to sell that. So how do you sell design if you don’t know the answer? You’re written off in the first conversation. So it’s a very tricky line to walk on and you know there’s value out there, for us and we’ve stuck to show that it is a methodical process – of actually found other functions in the business who recognize or in some ways, more methodical, because we have to have be. We have to demonstrate consistency and method and as the value comes out, it’s that the pennies start to drop and was definitely a marathon and not a sprint.

JENNI: And we can see in the organisation the struggle between other ways to solve a problem. So if you look at short term tactical approaches such as Lean Six Sigma for instance where we demonstrating value straight away, you’re cutting out stuff of business you cutting stuff out of processes, you’re reorganizing things in right, in a moment in the next months, you’re seeing changes in numbers. Where in the meantime, you have this human centered design team working and strategic thinking around, hang on let’s not even design anything yet. Let’s just make a strategy around who are our customers, how are you going to win with them, what’s the value of prop. It takes time and everyone’s in that short term mindset and you are competing with people in the short term making wins that are tactical, but not changing the environment. In longer term you have to have that two speed economy in your own team, where you’re building the future, and dedicating people to that because if no one does it, we’re going nowhere. But also having a support team in the short term picking up those, you know, as Scott was saying. You to build all these great projects that sounds really shiny. It’s not going to produce that massive transformation for the organization, but it’s going to build a small story to keep momentum and keep people patient. They need to trust that process.

Gerry: A little pocket of success.

JENNI: Exactly and that’s what we’re trying to achieve now. Because a lot of our team not doing design per se at this stage. So many other things need to happen before in building capabilities is one of them, there’s no point of us all being busy delivering three projects a year with ten people. How much of a difference we would we make.

Gerry: Absolutely. The bit that I found works quite nicely out early stage of trying to build up momentum for human-centered design, is quantifying success elsewhere. The service designer, Birgit Mager in quantified that for every pound you spend in design sees a return of 26GBP. And that’s a metric that I keep on going back to. I refer. I start to keep a repository of knowledge to share depending on conversations that I have with seniors, c level, or board people to get to share afterwards to put their mind at ease.

JENNI: Can I build on that? It’s actually in the team we’ve looked at ways also to start measuring things and we’ve had that function I was talking about before which is about testing and evaluating experience you threw out the life cycle and team looking after that’s done amazing job around quantifying of it last year, it’s three, four years. How many projects they’ve tested pre-launch, how many critical business issues, how many critical usability issues they’ve identified and then measured the amount of money you need to spend to rework on some of these. It’s quite incredible and having just those numbers show the case that all of these projects had they not been tested, these customers would have gone through market, with all those issues.

Gerry: That’s excellent.

JENNI: So that is another way to look at it.

GERRY: It is a really nice model to build confidence. You’re going to say something there Scott?

SCOTT: I’d say we’ve got similar to you, we’ve got a repository of case studies of different flavours depending on the stakeholder group that we’re talking to. All about human-centered design and being human-centered, but if it’s very much a cost and profit outcome, we need to demonstrate this an example from the fridge manufacturing in China or getting ethnographic insights and that’s a real point to it at the end, that the differentiating feature of that fridge is a twenty cent piece of plastic. But if it wasn’t there, and then we use different to any other fridge, and then a whole bunch of others, it’s some are more on the emotion and so on depending on the group we’re talking to. We are constantly building on those.

GERRY: Yeah. Nice. So we’re nearly at the end of our podcast here. I am going to shoot over to Mark who is going to ask with ’Mark’s Three Dreaded Questions from Hell’ as we are referring to an internally. Mark over to you.

MARK: Jenni, these are for you, I guess it’s three questions. The first one is I guess what professional skill do you wish that you were better at?

JENNI: I think for me it’s about storytelling, this is coming all the time in everything that we do. It’s about how do you tell the story with those metrics, with whatever talks to your audience and because you strongly believe in what you do, you don’t always do to job, or get around going around the organization selling stuff. Selling or the beauty of what your team could do or what your skill-set could do so it’s about that. Storytelling is critical, have to get better on that.

MARK: Question number two is, what one thing in the industry you wish you were able to banish?

JENNI: So we’re talking HCD industry or industry in general or business?

MARK: Industry in general I think.

JENNI: I’d say that whole power you know, this is my patch and you need to go by my rules it’s can we just let people do their stuff? Just give them permission and you’d get amazing results.

MARK: So look at it not from ownership perspective rather than what’s the best outcome.

JENNI: Yes, community. Sounding like a communist here.

MARK: And what’s the one message I guess that you give to an emerging HCD for the future?

JENNI: I’d say it’s about going for things not waiting around to get given an opportunity. There’s so many great opportunities out there, and you just go and ask. Also not focusing on building your experience only, it’s like, if you don’t know, that’s okay, you go, you give your time and your passion and people will give you a chance.

MARK: Just do it. A recurring thing for this question but yes.

JENNI: We need you guys just ditch uni, just come.

GERRY: Big call. Ditch Uni. So guys, thank you both so much for coming on the podcast today. And Jenni for the, if anyone wants to get in touch with you about roles, is there something you maybe call out?

JENNI: That will really be nice opportunity, we are recruiting for senior services designer at the moment. The team will definitely grow in the future as well, so come and join us and change the world.

GERRY: You can hit Jenni up on the slack channel as well. This is HCD slack channel. Jenni is on there. And Scott, thank you so much for being on here. Is there anything you want to add at QBE? Maybe a shout out for jobs or anything at the moment?

SCOTT: At the moment we are still trying to get that permission to play.

Gerry: That’s okay.

Scott: But I’m always happy to chat about HCD with anyone who wants to reach out to me. Absolutely.

GERRY: And Scott’s on the channel as well this is HCD. Thank you guys for joining us.

JENNI: Thank you. That was great.

SCOTT: Thank you.

So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed this episode and if you would like to be part of the conversation or community hop on over to thisishcd.com. Where you can request to join the slack community and help shape future episodes and connect with other designers around the world. Thanks for listening and see you next time.

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Posted by Gerry

Founder and Host of This is HCD