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

On the Lean Methodology and Metrics

I think setting up consistent metrics makes all the difference in relation to the lean startup model thinking. The practice of creating Minimum Viable Products is becoming a prevalent way to create new products and services. But in order to keep on improving our MVPs, it is essential to figure out the relevant metrics in relation to the customer’s overall happiness and satisfaction with the product or service.

So let’s take a brief look at the lean methodology in relation to metrics. In a recent post entitled “Flow and Seductive Interactions” (https://iiriskblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/flow-and-seductive-interactions/), I emphasized the need to create products and services that cater for the customer’s personal improvement, while giving us a sense of a true “flow experience” of micro-moments while performing relatively complex tasks. This is essential especially in multichannel digital service design.

But how to measure all of this?

Eric Ries, the author of “The Lean Startup”, says that while we certainly need figures, the customers are individuals.

In his book, Ries states that “Numbers tell a compelling story, but I always remind entrepreneurs that metrics are people, too. No matter how many intermediaries lie between a company and its customers, at the end of the day, customers are breathing, thinking, buying individuals. Their behavior is measurable and changeable.”

I agree with Ries. So essentially, we need to figure out what works, and also understand why it works. Focusing on these questions, especially the “why” part, helps us choose the correct metrics.

In “The Lean Startup”, Ries states that in order to support the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop, the metrics need to be “Actionable, Accessible and Auditable”.

First of all, let’s take a look at “Actionable” metrics.

Your company may attract 1 000 000 unique visitors to its website annually. However, this figure might not be as relevant as many people think. As Ries explains, “For a report to be considered actionable, it must demonstrate clear cause and effect. Otherwise, it is a vanity metric.” So the question we need to ask next is, where are the visitors coming from and why? And follow up by setting the metrics for that.

Ries also provocatively states that “All too many reports are not understood by the employees and managers who are supposed to use them to guide their decision making.” Furthermore, he says that “Unfortunately, most managers do not respond to this complexity by working hand in hand with the data warehousing team to simplify the reports so that they can understand them better.” I think this is true.

Based on my own experience, this might be one of the most important issues to solve in relation to metrics. I think setting up an accessible dashboard of the most relevant metrics should be a top priority in the analytics team. There is currently a plethora of excellent analytics dashboard software available. I personally prefer the kind that are accessible for any employee at any time, modular and visual.

Finally, Ries states that all analytics and metrics must be “Auditable”. An easy way to test hypotheses based on analytics is to interview the people that are using the product or service. Another feasible way to audit and validate the hypotheses is A/B testing. Playing around with various landing pages, for example, usually certainly pays off. Checking out the heatmaps of the existing websites also helps. Yet another practical way to test the hypotheses based on metrics is creating traffic via modifying the parameters of search engine optimization. I think regular auditing paves the way for regular improvements.

So the KPIs as well as other metrics should have a clear relation to the overall customer experience as well as the strategic goals of the company. Some of the most important KPIs still remain social media audience size, reach, engagement rate, website traffic, and the amount of leads and conversions. But understanding why visitors end up on our social media or landing page, and why they convert into customers is essential in order to create the next MVP as well as improve on the multichannel experience of the existing ones.

Setting up the most relevant metrics for these processes should be a top priority in the analytics team as well as in the C-suite.