Factors Limiting the Organizational Influence of Design

by September 27, 2008

This year, Tom Chi & I had the pleasure of presenting our Influencing Strategy by Design workshop to over a hundred professional designers across the World including teams from India, Taiwan, Japan, Europe, China, Korea, and the United States. Each time, we started the course by asking attendees to share what factors they felt were limiting their organizational influence.

Each time a common set of themes emerged: organizational imbalance, lack of shared understanding, resource constraints, and market dynamics.

Organizational Imbalance

  • My organization often prioritizes monetization and revenue over user experience. Our focus is on sales not customers.
  • The business units and product managers in my organization are responsible for most product decisions -not the design team
  • In my organization, short -term gains are often prioritized over long-term gains
  • Poor User Experience is not a gating factor for launching products
  • I’m unaware of how the decision making process in my organization really works
  • There is a lack of respect between product management, design, engineering, marketing, and other functional teams
  • The design team is not involved in longer, more strategic projects the way we are in short term projects.

Lack of Shared Understanding

  • People in my organization do not understand the of value of design
  • Our design organizations do not have a common process or method of scoping our work
  • Information exchange is difficult because we have distributed teams
  • The design team is not interested in the broader responsibilities required for strategic influence
  • The business goals behind our products and initiatives are unclear
  • Design is seen as less important than just getting something built
  • My design team needs a better understanding of the business perspective behind products


  • We do not have enough people or time to be strategic. There’s too much other work to be done
  • We have a lack of senior contributors who can do strategic work on our team
  • Our team has limited access to data, and research that could help build support for our strategic ideas
  • My organization outsources a lot of our design efforts
  • We lack engineering and instrumentation support for our strategic work

Market Dynamics

  • In my organization, the emphasis is on time to market
  • There is a lack of consumer enthusiasm for my company in the marketplace
  • Our top position in the marketplace leads to complacency
  • My organization faces increased competition
  • Our work is always compared to or a reaction to the market leader