Technology changes so quickly that it can be challenging to keep up. Those of us working in agile, tech-driven environments often feel the pressure of staying ahead of trends and developing products that meet not just current, but more importantly, future needs. But how do we do that? To get at the heart of that question, AnswerLab recently hosted a panel discussion among UX practitioners including Zynga’s Director of User Experience Research, Rob Aseron, Fitbit’s Vice President of Interactive, Tim Roberts, and Rabbl’s CEO and Co-founder, Wade Lagrone. AnswerLab’s own Beth Lingard moderated the discussion about the panelists’ experiences of putting lean UX into practice. At the core of their lessons learned from years of practicing lean or agile UX was this: To work successfully in an agile environment, everyone’s goals have to be aligned.

Of course, that sounds much simpler that it actually is. Here are five tips the panel shared for how to work successfully in an agile environment and focus on a common goal:

  • UX research can guide teams towards the same goal. In an environment where changes have to be made on the fly, it’s easy to lose sight of the end goal and instead implement quick, easy solutions that work in the short term. But how will these solutions work for the users? Throughout the development process, UX research can help to answer this question and keep the entire team – product managers, designers, engineers – aligned on the same goal of “will this solve the user’s problem?”.
  • Transparency is key to driving timely products. Agile is about responding to what is happening now; it’s about driving the future by developing products that match the needs of the present. In such environments, quick iterations are crucial and require full transparency about what everyone’s goals are. At Zynga, Aseron makes sure his research team’s goals are aligned with the rest of the business when embarking on a research project. He explained that when everyone’s goals are aligned, everyone can focus on working towards these goals, instead of focusing on the process.
  • A research-oriented culture is crucial for Lean UX. Share findings within your company and let everyone see the value of research first-hand. Roberts encourages the entire Fitbit organization to watch research sessions by providing a streaming video link. Illustrating how studies can be impactful in working towards a common goal can increase support for further research. Always be an advocate for users and represent their voice through research.
  • Be flexible. All of our panelists agreed that things change, especially in fast-paced, agile environments, and sometimes you need to be flexible and creative to reach the goal – and you need to do it fast! If you’ve ever played a sport, you probably know what I mean. You may have mapped out the shortest way to the goal, but if suddenly that defensive player shows up out of nowhere, you’ll quickly need to redirect your efforts to make it to the goal. Embrace change, even if the team’s goals have changed course, and think about how you can align your own goals with the new team goals.
  • Get your questions answered and communicated in the most efficient way possible. Sometimes, an extensive ethnography study is the best and only way to answer your research questions and meet your goals. However, other times, you may just want to know if a button is discoverable; and you need to know so right now, before you can move on to something else. Use your already extensive tool kit to determine the best way to get the answer to your question. For example, when it’s a straight-up usability question, Lagrone walks over to another office and shows them the page. Do they get it? If not, it’s probably no good.

Our panelists were able to share great insights from years of driving UX practices in agile or lean environments, and their tips may be helpful in your own organizations. As we called out earlier, every company’s approach to agile or lean is different. That’s why it is extremely important that you work with your own UX toolkit. At AnswerLab, we work with many different clients and understand that everyone’s needs are different – what works for one organization may not work for another. You will need to determine what works best for your environment and how to implement lean UX in a way that makes the most sense for your organization.