Thoughts on product design + user experience

The jujutsu of introducing usability to an organization (video)

Written by bbb on July 10, 2007

I was very pleased when Mark Maxted from Blue Coat agreed to speak at last month’s 7-Minute Soapbox in Waterloo. Of all the engineers I’ve worked with in the past 15 years, Mark is perhaps the most well-versed and committed advocate of usability and user-centered design. In this talk, he draws upon 24 years experience across several companies to share some advice on introducing usability and UCD to an organization.

The highlight for me was Mark’s metaphor for the topic: by applying techniques of “organizational jujutsu,” we can redirect an organization’s energy to increase our leverage when introducing campaigns for usability. Mark identifies four pressure points of an organization that will influence our choice of tactics.

  • Technical: Is the back-end architecture sufficiently decoupled from the front-end UI to allow for rapid prototyping?
  • Process: Are current processes, especially those regarding product requirements, well defined and do mechanisms exist for changing them?
  • Culture: Does the organization value interdisciplinary teamwork and encourage people to admit “we don’t know what we don’t know”?
  • Product/market: Is this an early market in which product features are the driving force, or a more mature market in which you’re competing on a whole solution?

Mark closes with several tips. I particularly like his advice to recognize the inertia of an organization’s culture and don’t try to change too many things at once. This seems consistent with the principles of jujutsu: sidestep the bulk of your powerhouse opponent, gently redirect one or two key points of leverage — and with a quick joint-lock, you’re in control of the situation.

Thanks to Slideshare, you can follow the slides as you watch the video.