Baby Steps – An Organic Approach to Organizational Change

by Jared M. Spool

We want to deliver better quality products and services. That means our organization will need to change how it approaches the planning, design, and development of those products and services.

Change is hard. There are two ways to change how an organization works: Big steps and baby steps.

The way many design leaders try to approach change is with big steps. Big steps require we make big plans. We need to get big approvals from bigwigs. There’s a lot of big evangelism we’ll need to do. We’ll likely need a big budget. That means we’ll need to make big promises. We’ll have to arrange a big number of visits. We’ll need to produce big results.

Big begets big. Everybody has high expectations. Things become high risk with a lot of attention focused on us.

Let’s say we want our developers and product managers to spend more time observing people using our product or service. Our goal is to increase their exposure hours.

We could go the big step way. We make this big plan about how we’ll get every developer and product manager in front of customers. We’ll need to appeal to the bigwigs to get big permission to take these folks away from their current work.

We’ll have to put together a big budget for all the travel and visits. We’ll need to make a big list of customers to go visit. We’ll need to make some big promises on how this will benefit the quality of the product. We’ll need to show some immediate big results to prove this is working.

That’s a lot of big risks we’re taking on. What if it doesn’t work?

Never Underestimate The Big Power of Small Changes

Or we could tackle the change with baby steps. We could do what LaiYee Ho did when she was leading design at Wink. She didn’t put together big plans.

Instead, LaiYee went on a few low key visits with a willing compatriot—a QA engineer who was really curious. She didn’t have to convince anyone but her immediate boss. She didn’t need a big, upfront plan. She just needed to get out to one or two visits.

Those visits were a complete success. That QA engineer came back completely jazzed. He helped her sell the idea for a few more visits to a few more developers. Those developers also found the visits amazing and their excitement grew. It was contagious.

Baby-step by Baby-step

Within a surprisingly short amount of time, LaiYee found herself orchestrating visits for all sorts of team members. She didn’t have to promise future results because the results were already happening. She just needed to make sure others at Wink knew about them. That was easy because team members were going around sharing all of the exciting things they were learning from visiting customers.

This is how change works when you use baby steps. Each baby step is a small risk, which goes unnoticed until something good happens. Then people get excited about the change and want to be part of it.

Baby steps are easy to repeat. If things don’t go perfectly, the next baby step is easy to do a little differently. This makes baby steps easy to sustain. Everyone’s confidence builds. And that creates excitement for the change.

We Don’t Need Big Steps To Make Big Changes

Taking baby steps like LaiYee’s show us how to introduce change and lasting influence into our organization organically. That’s how we ensure our organization delivers better products and services.

Now you know how to do it. Go forth and make awesomeness.

About the Author

Jared M. Spool is a co-founder of Center Centre and the founder of UIE. In 2016, with Dr. Leslie Jensen-Inman, he opened Center Centre, a new design school in Chattanooga, TN to create the next generation of industry-ready UX Designers. They created a revolutionary approach to vocational training, infusing Jared’s decades of UX experience with Leslie’s mastery of experience-based learning methodologies.

Strategic Approaches to UX Research

Intensive June 3-7, 2024 • Strategic UX Research is changing organizations. Get ready to change yours.

In five 90-minute sessions, explore how to connect your organization’s long-term direction and strategy directly to your customers’ and users’ deepest needs. Join us starting on June 3 and start leading your organization through this powerful, game-changing transformation.

Dive Into Our UX Research Intensive