gifts

We’re pretty proud of our cul­ture here at Right­point and we’re not ter­ri­bly shy about it. We’re also incred­i­bly pleased that we’ve recently been included in the Chicago Tribune’s Top 100 Work­places, among many other promi­nent lists like Forbes’ America’s Most Promis­ing Com­pa­niesCRN’s Fast Growth 150For­tune and ICIC’s Inner City 100 and Crain’s Fast 50 (and that’s just from this year).

As con­sul­tants, we get to spend time within other com­pa­nies and get a taste of their respec­tive cul­tures. And as a User Expe­ri­ence Con­sul­tant, I look at many busi­ness processes — includ­ing cul­ture — through a UX lens. I’ve found that each orga­ni­za­tion has its own spot on the UX Tip­ping Point spec­trum. Includ­ing us!

Specif­i­cally, Right­point is hap­pily beyond the point at which UX sat­u­rates the orga­ni­za­tion cross-silo.

In the lan­guage of com­pa­nies far larger and more siloed than Right­point: UX doesn’t just live in the CTO’s side of the orga­ni­za­tion. It’s also not just in the CMO’s side. Instead: the COO gets it. The per­son on the phone doing cus­tomer sup­port gets it. HR gets it.

User and cus­tomer expe­ri­ence touches every­one. As Jared Spool puts it: “In this phase, it becomes impos­si­ble to sep­a­rate out the invest­ment in UX from the rest of what the orga­ni­za­tion deliv­ers.” In short, we’ve cre­ated an expe­ri­ence cul­ture.

This topic cer­tainly crosses over into areas like change man­age­ment and cus­tomer expe­ri­ence — since as Ross (one of our two co-founders) once put it: “Right­point believes that great cus­tomer expe­ri­ences start with happy team mem­bers.” Not to men­tion cross­ing into cus­tomer obses­sion, which we also believe starts with cul­ture.

In Rightpoint’s prac­tice of inter­nal UX, we do what UXers do best: lis­ten, empathize, syn­the­size and imple­ment. It’s not just UXers doing this — it’s through­out the orga­ni­za­tion, though the inter­nal focus is offi­cially con­cen­trated in Peo­ple Poten­tial and those respon­si­ble for the care and feed­ing of our cul­ture. But in prac­tice, that means every­one.

Lis­ten

Both for­mally and infor­mally, we’re lis­ten­ing to each other every day.

For­mally: we con­duct a Peo­ple Pulse sur­vey quar­terly that goes out to every­one at Right­point, we give each other Super Sim­ple feed­back after every project, we award each other badges sup­port­ing our val­ues and WOWs when­ever appro­pri­ate, and we recently imple­mented break­fast round­table dis­cus­sions to help ensure that feed­back is as holis­tic as pos­si­ble. Some of the direct, mea­sur­able results from these for­mal sys­tems include:

  1. indi­vid­u­ally under­stand­ing what we do well and what we need to improve
  2. improved inter­nal tools for time report­ing, expenses, reviews and project management
  3. bet­ter cof­fee in the office (!)
  4. more soft skills training
  5. improve­ments to how we onboard new Rightpointers
  6. more inter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tion and transparency
  7. upgrades to the sur­vey itself

Infor­mally, both team mem­bers and peo­ple we don’t work with directly at all will stop by and check in reg­u­larly. Those infor­mal check-ins lead to all sorts of cross-pollination as we dis­cover solu­tions and resources that can be shared between projects and people.

Sim­i­lar activ­ity hap­pens inter- and intra-office on Yam­mer, which is front-and-center on our intranet along with top-level inter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tion items, help­ing to coor­di­nate our geo­graph­i­cally dis­persed offices. Our WOWs and badges are also pulled into Yam­mer, which high­light to every­one what we’re doing well and what to shoot for.

This ear-to-the-ground men­tal­ity leads us to dis­cover things which oth­er­wise would have gone unnoticed.

Empathize

Whether or not the chal­lenges our col­leagues express are chal­lenges we share, Right­point­ers gen­er­ally tend to empathize with one another. We take into account each oth­ers’ points of view and excel at sup­port­ing each other. When folks on my team bring up a prob­lem they’re fac­ing, the responses are often equal parts com­mis­er­a­tion and solu­tion sug­ges­tions, which end up being immensely con­struc­tive if only by reduc­ing the feel­ing of fac­ing the prob­lem alone.

Even in dis­agree­ments between col­leagues, there’s an effort toward refo­cus­ing the con­ver­sa­tion to see the sit­u­a­tion as if you were in the other person’s shoes. That moment of get­ting out of the posi­tion you’ve taken will often lead to a res­o­lu­tion. This reflects the break­through moment of usabil­ity test­ing: when you’re able to see first-hand the worst moment of user frus­tra­tion, the cause and its effect on the per­son doing the test­ing, and thus feel their pain. That moment — often referred to as the “a-ha” moment — often leads directly to a solution.

We take it a step fur­ther with Com­pas­sion Crew, the group that spear­heads our effort to sup­port the com­mu­ni­ties in which we live. Com­pas­sion Crew often takes on causes that Right­point­ers care about, facil­i­tat­ing Right­pointer dona­tions of time and/or money to many local char­i­ties, the major­ity of which the com­pany will match or oth­er­wise defray costs for.

Among many, many other projects, Com­pas­sion Crew has orga­nized or con­tributed to:

  1. our Day of Ser­vice, dur­ing which all our offices donate a day’s phys­i­cal labor to a local char­ity in need — in the last three years we’ve sup­ported Friends of the ParksYMCA of Metro Chicago and Heart­land Alliance
  2. a drive for Bear Neces­si­ties Pedi­atric Can­cer Foun­da­tion, which pro­vided gas and food cards to fam­i­lies with kids in the hospital
  3. a “sign­ing event” where a team pre-signed 1,000 cards with pos­i­tive, sup­port­ive mes­sages so these cards could be dis­trib­uted to the above kids through­out the year
  4. a chili cook-off which raised money for the Greater Chicago Food Depository
  5. a hol­i­day dona­tion of time to cook and serve food at the Law­son House, the largest SRO that pro­vides ser­vices to low-income and for­merly home­less men and women in Chicago
  6. a hol­i­day gift drive for orphaned chil­dren liv­ing in a group home
  7. a trivia fundraiser for Heart­land Alliance
  8. our annual Movem­ber drive, includ­ing mus­tache com­pe­ti­tion, which this year ben­e­fits Gilda’s Club Chicago
  9. a book drive for Bernie’s Book Bank

Syn­the­size

Dur­ing both for­mal and infor­mal listening/empathizing cycles, items that get repeated bub­ble up to the top and are then pri­or­i­tized as mak­ing the most imme­di­ate impact — this hap­pens in both UX processes and in our own inter­nal Right­point expe­ri­ence process.

In syn­the­siz­ing, we also dis­till: five sim­i­lar prob­lems might have a sin­gle solu­tion if it can be iden­ti­fied and solved for the great­est pos­i­tive impact.

In UX, the result of this stage may look like a report, audit or analy­sis, or per­haps a jour­ney map or series of user sto­ries, but almost cer­tainly it will con­tain a series of rec­om­men­da­tions. In our inter­nal UX prac­tice, this ends with a plan — and that plan has a cham­pion, either some­one involved from the begin­ning or some­one excited to take up the cause. Some­times even both: Cul­ture Club is one that has both an offi­cial spon­sor (Vaiva, who leads Peo­ple Poten­tial) and an enthu­si­as­tic cross-section of team mem­bers who rep­re­sent var­i­ous geo­gra­phies and ser­vice lines (Josh, one of our devel­op­ers, even wears the “Boy George” hat).

Cul­ture Club ends up being our syn­the­sizer (might’ve walked into a Rock Band pun there) of infor­mal feed­back to improve Right­point cul­ture since its mis­sion is to pur­pose­fully evolve our cul­ture in a pro­duc­tive way. While Cul­ture Club does casual fun events like Gam­ing and Movie Nights, it also pro­vides vital input about how to evolve our onboard­ing of new folks and show recog­ni­tion, among other contributions.

Imple­ment

In UX, imple­men­ta­tion might look more like sitemaps, wire­frames, pro­to­types and user flows. In our inter­nal imple­men­ta­tion, it looks more like — if you’ll excuse the col­lo­quial swear­ing for empha­sis — s*** get­ting done.

And we see that change quickly, whether that’s a change to our phys­i­cal envi­ron­ment, a change in tools, or a fur­ther open­ing of lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Usu­ally that means things flow more freely, which is the state we aim for in our UX projects as well. We want to get out of the users’ way as much as pos­si­ble, sim­pli­fy­ing and stream­lin­ing to help them reach their goals as effi­ciently as possible.

Rather than see­ing our cul­ture and envi­ron­ment as ideal and being unwill­ing to change any­thing about either, we see Right­point in a state of con­tin­ual change — par­tially due to our rapid growth, and par­tially because if we want to be agents of pos­i­tive change we have to prac­tice pos­i­tive change — so we con­sciously work on con­tin­u­ously improv­ing. To con­tinue iter­at­ing inter­nally, we need to lis­ten to and sup­port those who make up our cul­ture — that is, all of us. And we do.

We can absolutely do things bet­ter than we do now, but the point is: we’re con­tin­u­ously work­ing on it.

Orig­i­nally posted at: https://www.rightpoint.com/thought/2014/11/23/ux-from-the-inside-out-practicing-ux-through-company-culture on on 11–23–2014