Transforming Organizations Through Design Strategy

 
 

For Olson Zaltman, a leader in deep-mind research, I oversaw a year-long strategic organizational redesign effort resulting in the most profitable year of their 20-year operating history.

 
Getting ready to lead a product innovation sprint for Olson Zaltman

Getting ready to lead a product innovation sprint for Olson Zaltman

 

I worked closely with leadership to:

  • Refine and focus their business objectives
  • Create a roadmap for change
  • Gain empathy for key stakeholders in their ecosystem
  • Connect intelligence across silos and functional roles
  • Empower design at multiple levels within the organization

My initial stakeholder interviews (with clients, partners, and employees) revealed over a dozen key tensions within the organization. Confronting and resolving these tensions formed the foundation of the entire project.

 
 

The project also resulted in two key deliverables: a new visual identity, which I creative directed, working with the Chicago-based designer and illustrator Mike McQuade, and a new website.

 
 

To help the team understand and contextualize their transformation, I authored a video series unpacking the fundamentals of brand, how the Information Age is impacting those fundamentals, and how to grow customer relationships in a fast-changing market.

 
 

Each of these videos preceded team-wide sprints to synthesize core brand elements, strategize web content, and streamline product.

 
 

Attracting and retaining new talent was also a focus of Olson Zaltman's transformation, and I worked as a job coach with two of their new hires throughout the project, helping them understand the firm's development and how to best offer their unique skills.

 

"Your influence remains a big part of our approach—we're in line for our most profitable year ever. Our agile projects are 2–3 times more profitable than conventional work."

James Forr, Director


 

I used the website redesign as a teachable initiative, bringing the team into the process of human-centered design by involving them in user research, problem definition, creative workshops, content strategy and build, and user analytics and iteration. 

To ensure that the team could own the work, I developed their site on Squarespace and held a series of one-to-one training sessions. 

 
 

Additionally, I trained the team on effective use of social media, blogging and marketing email to showcase their individual talents and reinforce the firm's brand—"Empowered Understanding."

A snapshot of the website's "Team" page, displaying every team member's most recent tweet

Finally, I used the project as a way to get the team off of email and onto Slack and Google Drive/Docs. The technical capabilities of these tools extend beyond their features, and underpin the needs and expectations of a fast-paced environment of innovation and delivery.

A graph showing team adoption of Slack from my introduction of the service in late 2014

A graph showing team adoption of Slack from my introduction of the service in late 2014

Altogether, the project included:

  • 65 hours of empathy interviews with clients, partners and team members
  • Research into the firm's sector and competition
  • 3 day-long team-wide sprints covering brand, content, and product
  • Creative direction of the visual identity, designed by the award-winning Mike McQuade
  • 15-page website development and CMS training
  • Tech and communications tools implementation and training
  • Job coaching of two new hires

Finally, I spent the months after the project measuring outcomes and helping Olson Zaltman's leadership close the loop on our work, understand its impact and continue to iterate for long-term and emerging business goals.