Culture Still Eats Strategy for Breakfast?

Working time takes up a grand majority of our lives. The overall impact of working life conditions in the mental and physical well-being of employers is huge.

This weekend, I am attending a well-being hackathon event related to solving and reducing the negative impact of burnouts. The event is organized by the Finnish insurance company called Varma.

In philosophy, the term ‘well-being’ (and ‘welfare’, ‘utility’, etc.) refers, in a nutshell, to the manner of how an individual’s life manifests desires, objectives, and needs—among myriad more diverse variables—and how these affect the individual’s perspective.

Keeping up motivation for working and working life in general has sprouted numerous efforts at workplaces to improve upon the employer experience. Some workplaces offer free fruits, others set up a lounge with Fatboys for breaks. It is a common practice everywhere to host office parties, even working holidays.

I took part in an inspiring workshop last week that I feel deserves some attention in this blog while preparing for the hackathon. The workshop was organized by the fab Antti Harjuoja of a company called Milestone, devoted to improving upon the working life conditions via researching and recording the atmosphere at workplaces.

The groundbreaking notion in the tools developed by Milestone is that any improvements upon the customer experience are largely dependent upon the mindset of the employees involved in delivering the customer experience of a certain organization. The main methodology to solve commonplace issues and to make improvements in working life culture of Milestone here is to utilize a quantitative matrix that highlights with different color codes the several factors affecting the employer experience.

With the 5 people, most of the attendees being HR professionals, attending the workshop and discussion facilitated by Harjuoja the atmosphere was relaxed and easygoing with results that will hopefully be of assistance in developing these tools further.

Agile is a buzzword with a huge relevance in the evolution of organizational culture. “Agility is about flexibility and the ability of an organization to rapidly adapt and steer itself in a new direction. It’s about minimizing handovers and bureaucracy, and empowering people” says Bart Schlatmann, as quoted by Nordkapp’s Creative Director Sami Niemelä in a speech he recently delivered in New York.

I suggest you read the full paraphrase of “The New Invisibles” by Niemelä, I think this has very much to do with how the employees are being empowered and how design can have a positive impact in solving prevailing global challenges.

With trickle-down hierarchy, it is hard to make people realize their full potential as employees and the pace of change is slow. Waterfall hierarchies being still commonplace, I think we are in dire need practical tools to improve upon the employer’s attitudes and motivation towards their work, as well as the agility of organizations.

Design sprints can certainly be of assistance in this as well as solving many other problems. This weekend’s VarmaHack event will be a chance to see several practical digital solutions to these commonplace issues and burnout rehabilitation being prototyped by several teams. Excited to be attending the event and to see the outcomes.

This is the 50th blog post on this blog. I feel like I have reached a preliminary goal I set myself ex tempore around 1,5 years ago.

Read the paraphrase of the speech delivered at IxDA global conference 2017 New York by Nordkapp’s Creative Director Sami Niemelä: https://blog.nordkapp.fi/the-new-invisibles-a-look-into-the-changing-face-of-design-31531b7326d6

or

Get to know Milestone (site only in Finnish): https://milestone.fi

This Week in Los Angeles

The Museums and the Web conference organized in the United States is now turning 20 years old. This year, the conference takes place in Los Angeles. Originally established by David Bearman and Jennifer Trant, this four-day event has become one of the museum industry’s most valuable gatherings.

According to the Washington Post, there are roughly 11 000 Starbucks locations in the U.S., and about 14 000 McDonald’s restaurants.

Nevertheless, when combined, these two chains don’t come close to the number of museums in the U.S. – there are a whopping 35 000 museums in the U.S. as it is. The Museums and the Web event will again this year showcase the most prominent of these in the form of lectures on the digital dimension by experts of the field.

Scrolling through this year’s program and exhibits, it is evident that museums are embracing the digital – as well as brand new design and leadership practices.

Service design is increasingly being applied, and this year, many talks in the event will focus on this topic.

Service design is used, for example, to research the ways in which customer behaviour, motivations and needs interact with existing products and services. As it is service design that highlights best where there are critical moments, thresholds, and new opportunities for improvement, or entirely new ways of meeting customer needs, it is also increasingly applied in the museum industry.

Applied to the museum world, service design offers the opportunity to connect up long standing audience-focused research practices. For all of us involved in the delivery of digital products designed to support museum initiatives, service design presents a very useful as well as a provocative framework for designing, planning, and executing the next generation of digital products.

Following up on the service design paradigm, organizations across the field are also increasingly interested in how to measure success when it comes to digital projects.

Furthermore, organizations across the field are adopting new leadership practices and policies, like “Lean”, “Agile”, “Radical”, and “Open”. These concepts incorporate some of the most remarkable changes in the museum C-suite. As Michael Edson has demonstrated in his talks, these methodologies may be applied in the museum industry with success. Yet another emerging trend is designing digital mobile experiences.

I’m excited that some of my co-workers will be visiting the conference again this year and networking in LA. Last year, when the conference was organized in Chicago, our staff gained valuable insights into the current exciting digital projects in various museums around the world. Visiting this kind of topical events is of utmost importance for any big museum organization attempting to invest in digital projects. I’m looking forward to following the conference proceedings online!

See the full conference program of the MW2016: http://mw2016.museumsandtheweb.com/program/

Applying Agile, Lean and Scrum Methodology

I recently wrote in this blog about the current digital transformation in the museum industry, and emphasized the need for any organization attempting to thrive in the digital world to create a holistic digital strategy.

However, not all industry experts agree that strategy is that important.

Michael Edson, Web and New Media Strategist at the Smithsonian Institution, says that strategy is overrated.

In a SlideShare presentation entitled “Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast: Digital Strategy in a Changing World”, Edson lists ten reasons why:

In his opinion, strategy is over-glamorized, it is too inward-looking, it is too slow, it is too static, it overlooks crucial activities, it is incomplete, it has the wrong audience, it is dishonest, it fails to inspire, and, most importantly, strategy almost never succeeds.

In his presentation, Edson quotes Jack Welch, the CEO of General Electrics: “In real life, strategy is actually very straightforward. You pick a general direction and implement like hell.”

The main issue here is that the implementation of the strategy “almost never succeeds”.

Why is that?

And more importantly, what, if anything, is there for the organization to do in order to not fail in the implementation phase?

Edson suggests that the common issue here is the methodology is flawed. As a potential solution for this problem, Edson strongly recommends implementing agile methodology.

In “The Agile Manifesto”, the main points of agile methodology are listed as follows:

  • individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • working software over comprehensive documentation
  • customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • responding to change over following a plan

For Edson, this ideology of strategy implementation translates to “Think big, start small, move fast”.

In this context, Edson also recommends applying the lean startup model.

The lean startup model is based on the “build-measure-learn” feedback loop. This model is useful in developing a so-called minimum viable product, just to set in motion the feedback loop and the process of learning. What Edson recommends here, is to attempt to create an open, iterative workflow in the organization.

This, in his opinion, is a key factor in creating a healthy balance between “planning” and “doing”.

Ok, so your organization is now implementing the strategy via agile methodology and the lean startup model. But how to measure success?

In his presentation, Edson quotes Jim Collins, and concludes, that “What matters is not finding the perfect indicator, but settling upon a consistent and intelligent method of assessing your output results”.

I couldn’t agree more on this one.

What I would add to Edson’s suggestions is applying scrum workflow.

That would translate into having a sprint planning session, preferably applying daily scrum methods, and having sprint review and sprint retrospective events in the digital project development team as well as on the organization level.

I am very curious to see if the Museum Industry will find these methods useful in achieving strategic goals in the near future.