Feb 09, 2021
Human-centered team vs. Feature-centered team – Strategic insight
“Too many users churned,” Josh, the CEO, said. “Let’s add more plugin integrations. Our competitors have more integration.”
“Speaking of churn rate,” I said, as I pulled up the data to the screen. “Only 23% of our users stick with us in the last three months, which is bad.”
“Yeah, that is bad,” Josh added.
“From those who churned, we saw 48% of them don’t have many activities in their account,” I said. “We also observed our users overwhelmed when they first started on our dashboard.”
Then our researcher pulled out a 2 minutes video from one of her user interviews. We showed everyone in the room the pain our users had when they signed up.
“It seems there’s something we can do better in our onboarding experience.” Jenny, the product manager, said, “What if we take a deeper look at that to fix our churn rate?”
“Sure, that sounds reasonable.” Josh said, “But I still want more plugin integrations.”
In that story drawn from my experience with altered names, I knew Josh worried about the churn rate and focused on that outcome in the discussion. I can’t let this discussion turn into our team opinion vs. the CEO opinion. We did our homework to have the appropriate data when we need it.
Josh still wanted us to execute his idea. We can’t change everything right away, but we were progressing.
If my team can pull it off. We can get back to Josh and show him that his hunches shouldn’t be a part of the discussion, and please trust us to work on the right thing. Well, it’s not the end of the world if we couldn’t pull it off, but it slows us down to turn Josh into a believer in this practice.
Unfortunately, the result wasn’t as amazing as I thought. But our onboarding increased 8% of retention after a month of release, and the plugin usage didn’t increase. I reported this result in our 15 minutes 1-on-1. I made it clear that his idea about plugin doesn’t seem to get us the desired outcome. It gave us one step forward to gain Josh’s strategic trust.
It’s hard because we’re dealing with people. Biases and ego involved. Get to know the person, understand their motivation, and influence them. With patience.
Strategic insight is your homework as a design manager
Are you interested in preparing your team with this strategic insight? Start by understanding the business objective.
Allocate time for your user researcher to do appropriate research that is relevant to the business objective. In my case, I knew from the last quarter the objective was about the churn rate. Then, we started to ask questions, pulled data around it, turned them into a research plan, and so on – to understand why users leave.
Gain insight on how to achieve that business objective.
To set your expectation, it won’t be an overnight effort. You need to collaborate. Spend weeks after weeks to talk to customers, get the knowledge and data around it. You need the right people in your team; a strong product manager or a design lead, or a strong user researcher—at least one of them. Talk with them about this plan to gain more strategic trust.
If you don’t have the data set properly in your product, that will be your long battle first. Data is not a guarantee you’ll win the conversation, but you’ll have a more productive discussion. It’s not our word against CEO’s word.
Next, let’s talk about evangelism to the next level.