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Building trust within teams, digitally

At Lighthouse we spend a lot of our time working with established, enterprise organisations to improve digital products and the processes that keep them running smoothly.

Agile, iterative ways of working and concepts like design thinking are our bread and butter, but that’s often not the case for people in other industries.

A good agency knows you can’t just breeze in and expect a business to rapidly adapt to new ways of working.

As well as bringing the design skills, it’s equally important for us to have the tools to educate, upskill and ensure buy-in.

It’s all about building trust within teams.

Common concerns for enterprise businesses

Disparate teams with differing capabilities
Many enterprise businesses have a huge amount of moving parts, with tons of departments and staff with strong sector knowledge but varying degrees of digital trust and exposure to modern practices.

Breaking down silos in a way that doesn’t alienate anyone can feel like a considerable challenge, especially when the techniques are unfamiliar.

Breaking with the status quo
When an organisation is part of a field that’s traditionally slow moving, continuity is often valued over change.

It’s natural for leaders to know that existing processes aren’t perfect, but worry about the perceived negative effects of altering what people are familiar with.

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Building trust within teams

Lately we’ve been working with an enterprise client with the uncertainties mentioned above.

When a large organisation is on a bold journey, outcomes are never certain and teams used to a more traditional approach can very understandably find it challenging to experiment.  Trust within teams has to be earned.

However, when there’s trust in the process and a solid, collaborative way of working that all the different competencies the organisation encompasses can get involved in, the outcomes can be truly remarkable.

Here what’s worked for us…

#1 Engage and set the scene

If you’re asking people to place their trust in something, it’s imperative that they understand a) what’s being asked of them b) why they’re doing it and c) most importantly, how it will benefit them.

Starting from the ground up with no assumptions, and going on a shared journey is a powerful way to get buy-in from a diverse range of people.

#2 Focus on the problem to solve

Large, established organisations are made up of more moving parts than we can often imagine, and trying to change every area, all at once, is a recipe for disaster.

When adopting a more agile, iterative approach, it’s really important to start small.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you need a sensible plan of quick wins. Bite-sized pieces of work show value quickly and raise confidence too.

Momentum can be lost quickly when people don’t see things happening, but excitement is generated when organisations see rapid results.

Tasks that allow a team to practice the skills they need and learn to measure success in a specific, limited way are definitely preferable than trying to scatterbomb a whole company.

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#3 Celebrate success

Speaking of momentum, it’s important that changes are treated as something to celebrate. In an organisation that wasn’t set up to be agile, showing that things are going well is a route to buy-in from any sceptics and a reassurance senior management will appreciate.

It never hurts to shout about the wins at an appropriate moment.

#4 Empathise and understand

It can be genuinely scary for professionals from non-design backgrounds to start iteratively generating ideas.

The methods we use work best when they produce loads of outcomes, many of which show what’s not going to solve a problem, but piling up a load of potential solutions can feel uncomfortable for many.

The iterative idea generation and testing involved in the methods we like to use work best when they produce loads of outcomes, (many of which show what doesn’t work) but piling up a load of potential solutions can feel uncomfortable for many.

Don’t be surprised if people need plenty of reassurance that not all converging on the same line of thinking really is ok, and that having ‘failures’ is not a problem.

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#5 Find the best way for people to collaborate

Feeling like the only method for building trust within teams is to run a good collaborative session in person, with a ton of post its, nuanced real-life interaction (and caffeine ☕️) is understandable.

In our experience though, getting a bunch of people together in the comfort of their own homes can mean getting more done, getting a properly diverse range of people, and feels like less of a demand on precious time.

Remember, not everyone wants to or can travel to the same location.

It’s not something that can be dictated – you just have to figure out what makes people talk to each other and facilitate it.

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People make the project

Everything we’ve talked about above centers on the people involved.

Understanding where they’re coming from, putting aside assumptions about what they understand, and building confidence in both the process and their role in it.

That’s why our enterprise client is now enjoying a fast paced, agile environment despite their traditional field, and why changes that once took years can now be signed off in a fraction of the time.

You need to build trust before you can build a product, and form good relationships before you can do good work.

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