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How we got buy-in on our design practices with a UX Playbook

Leading design in a large, old, engineering-centric, and traditional organization, we faced a lot of challenges when it came to carrying out certain design practices. The business saw design as a tool to deliver user interfaces and designs. They were quite happy with this setting because we were generally shipping good designs, but we wanted to do better. We wanted to incorporate real user research into our process, which would have meant the same projects taking much more time to deliver.

We had a dream, and that was for business stakeholders to appreciate the value of our design activities.

We started by empathizing with our business stakeholders (what we do best as designers). We understood that they come from a very different background than us and see the functioning of business in a very different way. It wasn’t their fault that they didn't know what "generative" and "evaluative" research methods meant. They had hired us for that very reason, and we needed to educate them on this and help them see why we want to do things a certain way and how these things would add more value to the business. We needed to speak in a language that the business executives could value, not one that made us look fancy in our own heads.

We got serious about business

We got into our business pajamas because designers don't wear pants and drew this very executive pyramid chart. This made it super clear as to what we should be doing. We were going on a roadshow to educate the business people.

Designing our playbook

We brought our entire design team together in multiple workshops to find out how they worked and lay out an extensive list of our design activities. These were divided among the different stages of engaging with our stakeholders. We divided our design process into five distinct stages.

  1. Discover: When we understand the business problem or request
  2. Research: When we start delving into getting a better understanding of the solution we want to propose
  3. Sketch: We start brainstorming possible solutions
  4. Design: Getting into Sketch and Figma. Developing specs.
  5. Measure: Going beyond delivery. Ensuring the proposed solution works throughout its lifecycle.

As Simon Sinek would have said, “People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” We documented the why of each stage of design to explain to our business stakeholders why discovery, research, sketching, and measuring are as important as the design and why they are vital for the good outcome that we all want.

Reaping the results after 6 months

As soon as we released our UXD playbook, which was an interactive Figma prototype, we immediately started receiving positive comments from our business executives, and our senior design leadership started using it in their PPT decks for budget discussions and other meetings. Finally, this made our discussions with the company much easier over time. They knew the context of our activities even before we made a pitch to them, and the best part was when business stakeholders became partners in our design activities.

Overall, we felt really good when we felt understood. In terms of the evolution of our UX Playbook, we have kept it as a live document that is owned by every designer in our team, and we intend to continue improving and strengthening it as we grow as individuals and as a team.

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