Danny Hearn – Deeply Human Design Ltd

Design Leadership at John Lewis

This is the story of how, over the course of 5 years, I developed by own practice to become a disrupter and design leader. I used creativity, patience, and pure persistence to create real impact, influence and change at Britains best loved retailer.

John Lewis

5 years (perm)

My role
User Experience Manager

Line Management, Product Owner, Disrupter, User Research,  User Testing,  Presentations

The impact

Delevoped AGILE UX practice

Created clear process and approach for UX team when working in AGILE projects

Led and Grew UX practice

Grew, mentored and developed the UX team from 6-12+ (Supported with additional UX Manager)

Ran first hackathon event

Conceived and developed first of its kind 100-person hackathon event

Embedded value proposition design

Created process changes to embed user centricity within the project briefs

5 years at John Lewis

When I initially begun my time at John Lewis, it was 2011.  The UX team and practice had been designed for a different era and at the beginning of our journey to mature into an enterprise ready UX practice.  All projects worked in waterfall, with limited research with most work was done straight into wireframes.  The UX team didn’t have a deep purpose other than to provide IT teams with wireframes.

My role and impact was to push forward the team, practice and wider business to become more customer centric.  I did this through a number of initiatives, as outlined below.

How John Lewis’ UX Revolution Began in the Canteen

I sat down with Paul Boag to reflect on my time and impact at John Lewis

Defined AGILE UX practice ​

Overview of project activities

  • Led and developed the UX approach to projects and multiple work streams at John Lewis.
  • Introduced new working practices such as concept design, prototyping, sketching, critiques, and socialising design.
  • Developed a new approach for project design work as John Lewis transitioned from waterfall to AGILE.
  • Got buy-in for team to conduct discovery phase within AGILE, standardising the approach for the team
  • Elevated UX team’s presence and awareness around business
  • Pioneered use of innovative, offline collaborative methods e.g.

UX Practice guide

Socialising UX thinking and work

Lego AGILE events

Leadership and influence

  • Created ran several events from hackathons, lego learning, and team training.
  • Developed significant cultural influence as well as earning me trust with the leadership team. – Read the full story

Internal promo video for hackathon event

Talk and retrospective on event

Culture & Environment

  • Maintaining the hackathon’s momentum, I worked with a core group, tasked with improving the working culture and creating and innovative environment in the online team.
  • It was my strong stakeholder management and persistence that pushed for a wider brief and bolder ambitions.
  • Helped create a more collaborative working culture better suited for agile teams.

New breakout spaces

Collobrative spaces within design PODs

More collaborative spaces

Strategy, governance, and process

  • Laid ground work to position UX team to develop business propositions in their entirety, exploring, validating and testing the end-to-end service rather than just the online product.
  • Developed test card template that teams used to create hypothesis around business propositions.
  • Templates used to track progress of validation and confidence.
  • Augmented existing business processes with value proposition design tools to ensure customer centricity and better positioned projects.

Modified programme new work request form embedded with customer goals

Test card example as used to develop business proposition

A talk I gave at DIBI 2016 sharing the ideas and concepts i’d developed at John Lewis

Staff training & development

  • Developed a skill sharing workshop training session. These varied from small speaking workshops, to developing a full departmental skill swap sessions.
  • Hosted a half day workshop to help the team at google HQ with the whole online team.
  • Created the ‘UX Academy’ to recruit staff and interested teams around the business to support UX and evangelise our approach
  • Created new objective setting template for team development that aligned with customer goals

Team objective setting template

Skill training workshop

UX Academy poster

Final reflections

My time over the 5 years at John Lewis was an immensely transformative experience for me both professionally and personally.   I started with a limited toolkit in terms of understanding, influencing and creating change.  Over time I took risks, had some failures but ultimately some of my proudest professional moments have come from my time at John Lewis.  I was always motivated by a desire to create impactful change and relished the opportunity to try.

I developed into the ‘disrupter role’, questioning, challenging while offering creative alternatives in what I believe had become a culture filled with a homogamy of thought. I created a significant impact and influence in this role, however as I have matured my own practice as a consultant I’ve reflected on the role I want to play and what works best in different environments. 

My passion is now increasingly to lead from behind, bringing the client along for the journey and empowering others.