44 minutes | May 29, 2019

20. Leisa Reichelt of Atlassian (Part 2)

This episode of Dollars to Donuts is part 2 of my conversation with Leisa Reichelt of Atlassian. If you haven’t listened to part 1 yet, you can find it here. We talk about corporate versus government work, scaling research, and changing organizational DNA. I love research, I love the way that we learn things and what that means, but the thing that really drives me is seeing an organization almost like a design problem and thinking about like what do we – what levers can we pull? What do we choose to do? How do we position ourselves so that we cannot just do fun research, but we can actually really have this knowledge and this insight and this practice fundamentally change how this organization operates? – Leisa Reichelt Show Links Fundamentals of Interviewing Users (SF) Part 1 with Leisa Leisa on LinkedIn Leisa on Twitter Atlassian Francis Maude Martha Lane Fox Tom Loosemore GDS (Government Digital Service) A Country Practice DTA (Digital Transformation Agency) Flow Interactive NPS (Net Promoter Score) Kate Towsey Follow Dollars to Donuts on Twitter and help other people discover the podcast by leaving a review on iTunes. Transcript Steve Portigal: Hey, and here we are with another episode of Dollars to Donuts, the podcast where I talk to the people who are leading user research in their organization. This is part two of my interview with Leisa Reichelt. If you’re just joining the podcast with this episode, I’d encourage you to go back to the previous one for the first part of our conversation. As a reminder, my public workshop Fundamentals of Interviewing Users is happening September 13th in San Francisco. There’ll be a link for more information in the show notes. It’d be great if you recommended to this a friend or colleague. I also teach classes directly to in-house teams so reach out to learn more. Beyond teaching, in my consulting practice I also lead user research studies, so let’s talk if that’s a way that I can help your team. Of course, supporting my own consulting work is the best way to support Dollars to Donuts. Share your feedback about the podcast by email at DONUTS AT PORTIGAL DOT COM or on Twitter at Dollars To Donuts, that’s d o l l R s T O D o n u t s. You know, as user researchers, we love our sticky notes. A few years ago, in an article about how IBM was being transformed by design, a key achievement in this transformation was the ability for staff to order post-it notes. In some ways, that was the saddest thing that I ever heard, that IBM was so broken that ordering a quotidian office supply item was verboten, and that enabling this was seen as a victory worthy of mention. But it also was very real and acknowledged how much of uphill battle these kinds of corporate transformation efforts really are. So this carrier of innovative meaning both in its legendary origins and in its rapaciously consuming audience, this product of the 3M company clearly struggles itself with innovation. We’ve had the weird dispensers, the odd sizes and shapes, the reverse fan fold which may be tied to the dispenser but I’ve mostly just found them showing up in the most aggravating moments in a session. I think many years ago they came out with Super Sticky notes which seems like a complete contradiction of the value proposition but I think it’s just an acknowledgement that the original formulation fell off more than we’d like. I don’t think of them as Super Sticky, just the proper amount of sticky for most uses. Anyway, the latest thing I came across really made me scratch my head. It’s a pack of bright orange Post-Its, probably part of a series of exciting new notes with the aspirational branding A WORLD OF COLOR. This particular pack had an even more aspiration and even less relevant tagline “Rio De Janeiro” Collection. I can imagine interior paint, fabric even car finishes being marketed this way but it’s so strange to see on a package of sticky notes. The post-it, for the researcher, the designer is a backdrop, a carrier for something else. It already is aspirational, because of what we’re putting on it. Making it a “collection,” associating with a far-off fabulous city, is just ridiculous. Okay, here’s part two of my interview with Leisa Rechelt, the Head of Research and Insights at Atlassian in Sydney Australia. It was quite an in-depth interview that’s been broken up into two parts. This is part two, you can check out the previous episode for part 1. Let’s get to it! I’d love to hear about some of the other kinds of organizations you’ve worked in and what those have been like. Leisa Reichelt: Sure. Well, for probably 5 or 6 years before I joined Atlassian I worked in government. First of all, in the UK and then I moved back to Australia and worked in the Australian government for about months. Something like that, I think. And that was super different, super different to Atlassian. So, it was a much more kind of familiar ground for me in that it was organizations that you’d go into going we should really go and like involve people in our design process and they would go why would you possibly want to do that? So, that’s a whole different problem set than what we’re dealing with, I think, in some of the tech companies. But hugely rewarded as well. So, yeah, really very different. Steve: Both those governments seem like their commitment – I guess they’re just different cases, but their respective commitments to sort of design – I don’t know, digital services seems to be the term that gets thrown around for that. But it seems like there’s been significant commitments in both those cases. I mean you’re coming into environments where someone has said we want to do this, we want to change that default. And – like in the UK what was sort of the – how did that get initiated? Leisa: Okay. So, in the UK we had a MP, Francis Maude, late in his career. I don’t exactly know how it came to him that we could probably be doing better with our digital services than we are. I don’t fully have that back story, but it did come to his attention that we could do better. And he recruited a lovely woman by the name of Martha Lane Fox – Dame Martha Lane Fox now – to basically help him come up with an approach to how we should solve the problem of the UK digital government services not being what they need to be. Martha worked with a bunch of very smart people. In particular, a guy called Tom Loosemore, to come up with some recommendations. And it was off the back of those recommendations that the government digital service was put together. Tom and a bunch of other people that he’d worked with in various places around London and the UK came together and started working on trying to transform how government thought about approaching digital services. And they had – their design principles, I think, were really the best way of setting out what their beliefs were. And fortunately for me, and number one of those principals, was around putting user needs and not government needs first. And so yeah, culturally there was a cohort in there who were well supported within the political system and were able to really kind of make great shifts and changes and progress on that front as a result. Steve: It seems to me, just from like watching Twitter or LinkedIn, or just who I keep coming across, that there are research people, titled researchers in every kind of nook and cranny of government services – digital and otherwise, I think in the UK. It seems like from the time that you got involved it’s built into something – it seems like it’s sort of changed the way that government is delivering services. I don’t know if that’s an accurate assessment. Leisa: Yeah. So, it’s when I started at GDS I kind of came off the back of like – there was a lot of talk about being user centered, but I couldn’t really see exactly where the users were in the process. So, I was publicly a little bit critical of them at one point kind of saying well you know I see that you’re thinking about users a lot and you’re looking at the data that they leave behind a lot, but are you actually – actually involving getting a good understanding of them in the process of designing and transforming these services? And so, I was given the opportunity to come in and put my money where my mouth was, such as it was. And at that point there was the odd kind of researcher here and there. There were like 3 or 4, I think, at GDS at the time, and they were stretched across about 25 different projects. I remember sitting down at their team meetings and the team meetings were basically sitting in front of a spreadsheet, looking at all of the projects that they were supposed to be covering, dividing their days into quarter days and working out how on earth they were going to try to help to support these teams, not all of which were in London. So, a lot of them kind of theoretically required either quite a bit of traveling or just dealing with on the telephone. And that was it. So, they were there, but they were really not well set up to be effective. And I was not really – you know I’d worked with government as a consultant in the past and was pretty skeptical about whether or not that would be a brilliant place for me to work long term. And so, when it came time for me to say what I thought we should do I wasn’t really that worried if I lost my job. So, I was able to say what I thought we should do which is I thought we should have one researcher per team, which at that point in time was like just an outrageous thing to be saying. It was absurd. And we didn’t quite get one researcher per team, but we did get quite a big chunk of researchers and so – and the other thing that I did that I kind of look back on and think that was a really important thing
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