Techniques for developing a user-centred culture

An article by Kieran McBride 12-12-2016

User-centricity should be the core ethos of any company wanting to thrive in a constantly changing market.

To be truly user-centred you need to approach the challenge from two perspectives;

  • Embedding user-centred thinking into core organisational strategy and culture (not simply into a digital strategy and the digital team, this is preaching to the converted).
  • Employing lean, agile and collaborative user-centred methodologies in the delivery of products and services. 

Here are some approaches to both organisational strategy, and product & service delivery. We expand on these in-depth in our upcoming white paper, sign-up if you want to be the first to receive it. 

Core organisational strategy 

1. At board level, examine your core proposition. What are your vision and objectives for the organisation? What need are you meeting, what does the future landscape look like in your sector? Are you still relevant given new technologies and competitors in the market - are others gaining market share and adoption of their proposition because they have a clear focus on meeting an identified user-need?

2. Like any product or service, has your organisational strategy, roadmap and operational model been iterated over time, based on internal and external user-research? Or have you simply delivered against a model that has existed since inception?

3. If you’ve identified that your proposition needs to pivot - have you looked at the skills and capabilities within the organisation to understand where there are gaps, and where you need to fortify, given your direction of travel?

4. Are your Directorate engaged in the internal and external user-research process? Do they understand the purpose and need for agility and change within the organisation to remain relevant?

Product & service delivery 

1. Build internal capability and a budget to support R&D. Work on specific pilot projects to prove that user-centricity works and build the business case for a user-centred approach across all areas service delivery.

2. When developing ideas for new products & services, use cross-discipline internal teams to qualify if the product or service is commercially and operationally viable and meets your core audience needs. Use the Google Venture Sprint methodology or other co-design techniques.

3. Use online quantitative methods and analytics to quickly gather data and prioritise projects and features based on user feedback/needs. For instance; Google Analytics, email surveys, intercept surveys and online unmoderated usability testing.

4. When undertaking user research, use warm audiences and users available to you - forums, communities etc. Separately, ensure you also test with cold audiences, who are less open to bias or having preconceptions about your products or brand. The validity in user-testing comes only from having a strong, reliable data set.

5. Take an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) approach. Use rapid prototyping techniques and get a working prototype live within weeks of concept.


These are just some of the areas of focus to help you achieve a user-centred culture. However, these task and methodological based approaches only are only the tools to help leverage and implement change.

The greatest challenge that we encounter is in working with clients to effect genuine behavioural change at board level. It is these key individuals that set the cultural tone, ways of working and future direction of the organisation. 

This is both the hardest change to effect and most important. It’s essential to have a progressive leadership in place for any enterprise to thrive.

If you want to know more about how we design organisations to succeed, get in touch

Contact Kieran McBride, Strategy & Planning Director

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