Customer Experience and Design

89,000 employees and “one curious culture”

I was really intrigued when I heard Eric Quint introduce the scale and scope of his job on a Web Conversation by to an audience from 40 countries. We were there to hear the 3M Company’s Chief Design Officer talk about change management. For those who are not familiar with 3M, their products are found in our offices and homes: Post-it notes, Scotch tapes and Filtrete home air filters to name just a few. The #73 firm in the FT Global 500 (June ’15) has 89,000 employees, 5 business groups, 27 divisions, 46 technologies and “one curious culture” according to Quint.
Quint’s job is vast – building and managing 3M’s global multi-disciplinary design teams in innovation and branding. His background before 3M included leading and managing award-winning teams. So when Quint joined 3M in April 2013 he came prepared and ready to introduce change into a giant corporation with design pedigree, highly recognized brands and a culture of successful innovation through design. The heart of his talk was on just that – being a “catalyst of change” in a well-established organization.
The first steps to changing a design culture – “define a direction”
To get started, Quint’s first initiative was to clearly define a direction. Because he came in “with a fresh view” he started making introductions with top executives across the five business groupCuriouss (“BGs”). He learned what he could about the company and culture to create synergy with colleagues as the new head of design. It also demonstrated he had good intent and it started the process of working together with the heads of the five BGs. Next he created a change management program to establish a design vision and strategy. “I learned about the design talent in 3M and engaged with them. And I held an internal global design conference.” Quint approached it as a design program, one that would guide him in delivery of strategy, and to show others in 3M the roadmap “today into the future.” In his “5-year design strategy” he created a vision and mission to share within 3M – the plan on how to create design governance.
“Don’t talk, show”
During the hour talk Quint fielded questions, and one person asked about the tactics he used to define and execute on the design strategy. He gave credit for the gains made because of ongoing communication.

  • Start design communication inside and outside the organization
  • Explain and align what design is about and share it as it’s developing
  • Have lots of presentations and keynotes
  • Create an ongoing dialogue on change across the firm

Quint was smart in another area of change management; he asked BG leaders outside of design to “help us with suggestions to set-us-up for success, and to create a cross functional change management process.” To move forward with the strategy, he demonstrated change, “don’t talk, show…we showed the value of design in small projects to main stakeholders to inspire them. A pull and not a push strategy.
“Collaboration”Design thinking
I wasn’t surprised to hear Quint talk about the hurdles of instituting change management at 3M. Deploying a new design strategy over 5-years is going to “have its challenges both inside and outside an organization” as Quint noted. The main challenge is leading design within a well established design driven firm with a “great R&D community;” this is what made the firm successful long before Quint arrived in his role. Quint acknowledged that he had to work with research and development, developing and building a collaborative relationship. He purposely did not work around them. “Collaboration is key,” said Quint. The 3M Chief of Design said his collaborative tactics are working because he started “with clarity of how you are going forward,” along with a healthy balance of top down and bottom up management, and explaining the journey (the roadmap). Quint mentioned that the previous two years he worked to “explain what we are and how to collaborate.” These investments in relationship building with 3M’s business groups have also been built on, as Quint would say, “Respect on each others’ expertise…and we need each other.
Driving change comes down to…
As the hour was winding down, one last question came up about his leadership style. “It depends on the context because there are many variations,” said Quint. He quickly followed that it “comes down to

  • In-depth knowledge,
  • Having strong leadership skills realized through leadership programs,
  • Dealing with resistance,
  • Transparency of communication,
  • Cross functional collaboration,
  • Mutual respect (“cultures”), and
  • T-shaped experience to lead design.”

As he closed, Quint shared an ethos that I share as well. We should use creative thinking to propel an organization and that creativity should come from all operations, not just design. “All parties can lead, work together within the different functions to identify the value together, to co-create.
To hear his talk, visit dmi Web Conversations.

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Lisa McMichael

Lisa McMichael is a Senior Manager Digital Accessibility, CPACC with the Detroit Business Unit.

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