Designing Culture with Lean UX

What is ‘Corporate Culture’ and why should you care?

Removing Waste As A Total Outcome; Not A Result

Lean UX is not designed to cut back on wasteful activity. As the phrase “lean body” indicates, the purpose of Lean UX is to achieve and maintain a lean (corporate) body make-up from UX perspective.

In general, in order to successfully diet, I believe that it is necessary not to semi-forcefully restrict one’s own diet, but to rethink one’s life-style instead. This life-style corresponds to corporate culture within the corporate setting.

(c) iStockphoto LP 2013.

By rethinking one’s corporate culture, wasteful activity is naturally reduced. To state it once again, the purpose of Lean UX is not to cut back on waste.

Rethinking of Corporate Culture

In particular, with regards to the IT industry, I believe that a rethinking of corporate culture is going to be necessary in the immediate future. The reason for this is that changes in the IT industry occur shockingly fast. Beginning with Web 2.0, a popular phrase referring to new ways of using the web that gained traction era that around the mid-2000s, information acquisition and distribution channels, such as through mobile phone and tablet use, have grown exponentially in number. In addition, stories in the news reporting that some companies have grown to double their previous size while others were cut in half, and that some have gone bankrupt while others succeeded in procuring new funds, seem to appear every day.

We all live within this kind of competitive society.

In other words, going forward IT corporations must search out the answers to the questions:

  1. What must be achieved in terms of providing a service?
  2. How should corporations that must achieve these things organize themselves?

A certain company has analyzed the essence of these answers to their core, utilizing them to progress large-scale organizational reforms.

The company is Yahoo!. Marissa Mayer, CEO of the company around 2 years ago, directed employees to physically share space. This provoked ill will among certain employees, but it resulted in Yahoo! being able to unify itself and a 74% increase in stock price over the year after she took her position. She is apparently recognized as one of the best CEO’s in Yahoo! history.

“We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.” — Merrisa Mayer

She explained that in the current world, as it moves in a direction in which workers are no longer tied to offices and able to utilize the full potential of IT with a nomad-like work process, constructing an environment, in which ideas can be exchanged back and forth in a cooperative yet random way, facilitated the creation of new wonderful ideas. This is similar to the old Japanese saying of “Sannin Yoreba Monju no Chie”, which essentially means that two heads are better than one.

Break Out Your Business Silo With Lean UX

Like Yahoo!, which successfully revised its corporate culture by prioritizing creativity over productivity, I believe that the true essence of a company lies in its culture. To design corporate culture; this is truly what Lean UX aims to achieve in the world.

(c) iStockphoto LP 2013.

It is definitely not easy to undertake the challenge of revising one’s corporate culture. Corporations with long histories have especially large influence, and as almost 50% of corporations with more than 100 years of history are Japanese in origin, it is easily seen that Japan has trouble accepting change.

Despite this fact, I am very pleased that Lean UX has been able to slowly penetrate the Japanese market. This is because I believe that Lean UX brings to the surface the problems that a corporation potentially face and acts as a trigger leading corporations to search out the true nature of their creative and productive capacities.

(c) Kazumichi ‘Mario’ Sakata

This is not to make excuses, but it should made clear that Lean UX is neither a silver bullet nor a panacea. Lean UX is a form of management, a method, and a mindset. Therefore, Lean UX does not tie down users with rules such as what should or shouldn’t be done. We believe that if you give a good-faith effort to put into practice the things repeated on several occasions in this article, you will surely and naturally come closer to achieving the culture explained in this work, one step at a time.

I am still inexperienced, but I hope to continue working, together with all my readers, toward creating corporate cultures that can draw out their true creative and productive capacities from UX point-of-view.

I originally spoke about this after translating the “Lean UX” book in Japanese. You can see it here.