On the challenges faced scaling the design team at the Lunar online bank from 3 to 16 over the course of 1,5 years.
Talk transcript of Kasper Mathias Svendsen – posted on 2 Dec 2022 Building a Team
Kasper Mathias Svendsen was the head of design at Lunar, an online bank operating out of Denmark and Norway. Lunar primarily serves small and medium-sized businesses and focuses on design, innovation, and technology. Kasper has a background in product design and UX design, and has worked as a consultant at an innovation lab and a marketing agency and has led the design team through rapid growth.
Since I first started at Lunar three years ago, the company has undergone tremendous growth, expanding from a team of approximately 80 to 650 employees. This represents an impressive 700% growth rate, with much of this expansion occurring within a year and a half.
At the outset, Lunar was a typical start-up with a small, close-knit team working in a collaborative manner. However, as we have scaled at a breakneck pace, we have had to adapt to a host of new roles and individuals joining the company. This influx of personnel has presented challenges, including the need to ensure that everyone is on the same page and fully understands our company culture.
In addition to this, we have obtained a banking license, which has necessitated a focus on compliance and anti-money laundering measures.
In my role as Head of Product Design, I have worked to introduce best practices and structure to Lunar while also striving to get to know every member of the team. However, when my former Chief Product Officer left the company, I found myself inheriting a team of designers who had previously reported to him. In the ensuing year, I have worked to build up this team and bring on skilled designers who share my design philosophy and approach. Alongside this, I have sought to incorporate behavioral research and design thinking methodologies into our work. In order to accommodate our rapid growth and support the business, I have also emphasized the importance of efficient time management and the adoption of agile methodologies.
Hypergrowth requires rapid scaling, and our journey over the past year and a half has been especially intense. When I first joined Lunar, I had to work to establish buy-in and explain to my colleagues the value of user experience (UX) design and what it entails beyond simply making things look aesthetically pleasing.
As a designer, I believe that the final touches are crucial, but they are not the only aspect of design; rather, design should be a holistic and integral part of the product development process. In order to improve and create products that are truly useful, it is essential to engage in user research and validation.
Unfortunately, at Lunar, we initially tended to prioritize aesthetics over function and user needs. This resulted in issues that could have been identified and addressed through research. Design is not a siloed activity, but rather it should be integrated into the company’s culture and mindset. Our CEO also understands and values the importance of design, but there are still many individuals within the company who need to grasp this concept. Design is not just about how something looks or feels, but also how it works and functions.
To create a successful product, it is necessary to start by identifying the core functions and needs of the user. This includes understanding their pain points and how the product will address them. From there, the product’s information architecture and user flows can be developed, followed by the focus on aesthetics and delight. This holistic approach, known as design thinking, allows for the creation of products that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. By incorporating user research and a user-centered approach into our design process, Lunar has been able to improve and better meet the needs of our customers.
As a UX designer, one of my primary responsibilities is to bring together individuals from different backgrounds and experiences to work towards a common goal. This requires being able to facilitate communication and help everyone understand each other’s perspectives. At the same time, it is essential to remain centered on the user and their needs, ensuring that the product being developed truly addresses their pain points and fulfills their expectations.
At Lunar, we were fortunate to have the opportunity to build a brand new e-commerce system from the ground up. However, we also faced the challenge of making sure that our assumptions about user behavior were grounded in data and research, rather than simply relying on our own experiences. For example, when we noticed that our sign-up conversion rate was low, we initially assumed that users disliked the process. However, upon further investigation through user interviews and observations, we discovered that the issue was actually due to a technical problem, rather than user dissatisfaction. This highlights the importance of gathering and analyzing data to truly understand user needs and behaviors.
In my role as a UX designer, I also have to consider the priorities and needs of other teams, such as development and business. It is my responsibility to strike a balance between these various stakeholders and ensure that we are working towards a cohesive and effective solution. By staying attuned to user needs and collaborating with cross-functional teams, we can create products that are both functional and desirable.
Hyper growth is a term used to describe the rapid expansion of a business or organization. In our case, our journey towards scaling rapidly over the course of a year and a half was nothing short of insane. It was a daunting task, especially considering the visual branding we had to consider in addition to explaining the ins and outs of UX design. Our focus was not just on aesthetics, but also on defining the product and effectively communicating its value to our team and stakeholders.
At Lunar, our primary principle is customer obsession. This means that we prioritize the needs and wants of our users above all else. To facilitate this, we have implemented systems such as a feedback channel in our company’s slack channel and a panel of testers that we can consult for their insights and experiences. By gathering data and actively seeking out user feedback, we are able to continuously improve and iterate on our products.
As UX designers, it is our responsibility to ensure that a product not only looks good, but also functions well and meets the needs of its users. This requires a deep understanding of who our users are and what problems they are trying to solve. Without this knowledge, it is easy to fall into the trap of building features that may look nice, but do not actually serve a purpose.
In order to effectively incorporate design thinking into a company’s culture, it is important to foster a sense of community and collaboration. At Lunar, we have established a “mid unity” where team members can come together to discuss and share ideas. In addition, by making design a central part of our company values, we have been able to instill a design-first mentality in all of our employees.
User testing and gathering feedback is crucial in the product development process. To facilitate this, we have utilized tools such as Grow Formulates, which allows us to conduct interactive surveys and prototype testing with our target audience. By analyzing the results of these tests, we are able to identify pain points and areas for improvement in our products.
In the fast-paced world of startups and hyper growth, it is important to maintain a high level of productivity while still being thorough and organized. To achieve this balance, we have implemented processes such as regular check-ins and documentations of our progress. By staying on top of our work and regularly soliciting feedback from stakeholders, we are able to continuously improve and move forward efficiently.
One of the most rewarding experiences in our work has been the creation of a vibrant, organic community of individuals who have joined us voluntarily and contribute to our efforts by being part of our studies. By fostering a culture of engagement and inclusivity, we have grown our community to 1300 strong, all of whom bring valuable perspectives and insights to our discussions.
At the core of our principles and values is a focus on customer obsession. This means always putting the needs and wants of our customers first, and creating a system through which all members of our team have access to customer feedback. Whether through direct communication channels or aggregated data, we prioritize staying attuned to the experiences and needs of our users.
To ensure that our products and designs are meeting the needs of our customers, we have established a systematic process for gathering feedback and testing prototypes. This includes inviting potential users to participate in our beta testing program, as well as using tools like interactive surveys to gather in-depth, qualitative data. By continuously testing and iterating, we aim to refine and improve our offerings.
To better understand the needs and motivations of our target audience, we have developed detailed user personas and archetypes. These allow us to create more relatable and accurate representations of the individuals we are designing for, and ensure that our products meet their expectations.
In our efforts to continuously improve and iterate, we have embraced lean design principles. This means breaking down complex problems into smaller, more manageable pieces, and regularly assessing and adjusting our approach. By constantly seeking out new insights and data, we aim to refine and optimize our design process.
As a design leader, one of the key challenges I have faced is effectively guiding and supporting my team. To do so, I have relied on my past experiences and lessons learned, as well as a systematic approach to analyzing and addressing problems within the organization. This includes breaking down complex issues, simplifying them, and identifying clear metrics and goals to guide our efforts.
It is essential to surround oneself with individuals who are brilliant and capable of contributing significantly to a team or project. This is because no achievement can be accomplished alone, and being in the presence of exceptional individuals can be a joyful experience.
To facilitate effective communication and learning within a team, it can be helpful to implement structured meetings and workshops. For example, holding weekly meetings to discuss progress, share insights, and present ideas can be valuable. Additionally, hosting workshops that allow team members to collaborate and learn from one another can be beneficial.
In the age of remote work, video conferencing can be a useful tool for maintaining interpersonal connections and effective communication. Ensuring that all team members have their cameras on during meetings can help to foster a sense of presence and inclusivity.
Understanding the different management styles that are suitable for different situations is crucial for leaders. For example, an individual who is skilled in a particular area may need more explicit direction and coaching when faced with a new challenge. On the other hand, someone who is confident in their abilities may require less direction. It is important for leaders to be aware of these differences and adapt their management style accordingly.
When hiring new team members, it is essential to allow for sufficient time for them to become familiar with their role and the company. This process can take several months, during which an individual may not be at their most productive. It is important to have patience and understanding during this period to ensure a smooth integration process.
Utilizing personality profiles can be a valuable tool in understanding and cultivating the strengths and weaknesses of team members. By gaining insight into individual tendencies and preferences, it is possible to assign tasks and responsibilities in a way that leverages the unique abilities of each team member. Additionally, engaging in exercises that allow team members to share and reflect on their profiles can foster a sense of trust and understanding within the team.
It is worth noting that personality profiles should not be used as a determinant of someone’s capabilities, but rather as a means of understanding how an individual may approach tasks and interact with others. It is important to recognize that individuals may have varying levels of skill in different areas and that personal development is ongoing.
Maintaining a high level of energy can be crucial for both personal and team productivity. Engaging in activities such as mindfulness practices can help individuals to regulate their energy and approach tasks with a clear and focused mindset. It is also important to be mindful of the energy that one brings into a team or group setting, as it can have a significant impact on the dynamic and productivity of the group.
Establishing trust within a team is crucial for effective communication and collaboration. Engaging in exercises that promote trust-building can be a valuable means of strengthening team dynamics and fostering a sense of unity. It is also important to prioritize inclusivity and ensure that all team members have the opportunity to contribute and have their voices heard. By creating a culture of trust and inclusivity, it is possible to foster a sense of belonging and support within the team.
It is crucial to consistently promote your products in order to attract new customers and keep existing ones engaged. This is especially important when introducing new individuals to your brand, as they may not be familiar with the offerings or unique selling points of your products. Engaging in effective “upselling” techniques can also be beneficial in encouraging customer loyalty and driving sales.
In order to move beyond simply being a provider of products, it is important to consider the experiences that customers have with your brand. This may involve understanding and defining the problem spaces that your offerings address, as well as exploring opportunities for personalized use. Design teams play a crucial role in this process, and it is valuable to invest time in educating new team members on the company’s approach to design.
In order to effectively track and improve the performance of a product or service, it is necessary to establish clear Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These may include metrics such as revenue and user engagement, as well as softer, less tangible factors like user trust and perceived value. It is important to carefully consider which KPIs are most relevant and meaningful for a given product or service.
Striving for perfection in every aspect of a product or service is not only impractical, but can also be detrimental to progress. It is important to be able to identify and prioritize the most important issues and focus on making meaningful improvements in these areas, while also being willing to accept that certain aspects may not be perfect. Trusting in the decisions and direction of the team can also be crucial in moving forward and making progress.
Not every aspect of a product or service will be equally important to all customers. It is important to carefully consider which features or aspects of the offering are most impactful and prioritize improvements in these areas. It may also be helpful to establish guiding principles for the team to reference when making design and improvement decisions.
In the world of design, the ability to bring people together and effectively facilitate the realization of a shared vision can be the key to success. Whether it be through proactively addressing potential challenges, continuously reassessing and validating the most crucial assumptions, or simply taking on responsibilities and leading by example, true leaders in the field of design are able to inspire and guide their colleagues towards meaningful and impactful projects.
Furthermore, the power of collaboration should not be underestimated. By working together and leveraging the diverse perspectives and skills of a team, designers are able to tackle even the most complex and daunting challenges and achieve truly extraordinary results.
In the end, it is through the combination of strong leadership and collaborative effort that designers are able to make their mark and create work that truly stands the test of time.
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