3 ways to influence your company's strategy as a designer

Dear Reader,

Q: How can I influence my company or client's strategy?

Anyone can shape a company or a client strategy, but most designers don't know how.

Designers won't have the agency to define the strategy outright, but you can sharpen strategy with your design skills.

Strategies are created under conditions of extreme uncertainty. A strategy is merely a company's best guess at how to win.

Strategy (like any future-oriented practice) is more art than science.

Designers should be comfortable in the speculative, uncertain nature of strategy.

Here are three concrete ways you can sharpen any strategy:

  1. Informing strategy
  2. Visualizing strategy
  3. Facilitating strategy

1. Informing strategy

Insights can feed up to a strategy and sharpen it.

The customer condition is often neglected in business strategy. As a user-centered designer, you hold valuable knowledge about customer behaviors that can sharpen the strategy.

Your insights from user research can shed light on the customer assumptions in a company strategy. Here's an example:

How to do it: As you do UX research, gather your user insights in a central place. Maintain this list of insights outside of your project work. Keep stakeholders aware of this resource and use them to sharpen existing and future strategies.
Use the Insight Card to do it in Miro or Figjam→

2. Visualizing strategy

Strategies often live and die in the heads of the executive team.

Once a strategy is formed, it must be spread throughout the organization. Visuals can improve the spread of strategy.

Designers are perfectly situated to visualize the thinking within the strategy.

McKinsey's 3 Horizons Framework is a common way to visualize the timeline of a strategy:

Is there a model or a framework that helps communicate your company or client's strategy? Find it, make it, and share it.

How to do it: Start asking questions about the company strategy until you figure out who owns it at your company. Schedule 15-minute interviews if you have access to strategy stakeholders. Take extensive notes as you do internal research to uncover the nuances of strategy. Start sketching what you're learning. Once you feel like you have something useful, ask for feedback on your visuals. If you've done your job, executives will latch on to your visuals and include them in future presentations.
Use these qualitative diagrams as inspiration→

3. Facilitating strategy

Strategy is difficult, collaborative work, and the skills of facilitation can make the process of strategy a lot smoother.

If you can facilitate a workshop, you can facilitate a strategy.

New to facilitation? Learn more here→

Executives will often schedule collaborative sessions to work on strategy. You can offer your services as a neutral facilitator of the process.

It's important to have an unbiased observer, and if you have experience with design workshops, you can easily be that person.

The beauty of facilitating the strategy is that your lack of experience in strategy is a good thing. Your ignorance of the work will make it easy to be neutral.

How to do it: Start with your team until you have the confidence to try with the executive team. Every team needs a team-specific strategy, and it's a good place to practice facilitating the process. Focus on connecting different ideas and work towards alignment. Remember to make it fun!
Learn how this process might look for a design team→

These are just 3 ways to sharpen a strategy.

If you want to learn how to design a strategy from scratch, check out our course, Defining UX Strategy, starting April 17th.

Until next week!

Jeff Humble
Designer & Co-Founder
The Fountain Institute

P.S. It's the last week to join Designing Product Experiments! Experiments are a great way to de-bug a strategy or a big innovative idea. Get your company to fund this unique skill-set so you can stand out from the pack of generic UX designers.

The Fountain Institute

The Fountain Institute is an independent online school that teaches advanced UX & product skills.

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