I recently started an internal project to examine the ways in which we at Lagom carry out our research.
The work is influenced by current conversations about research ops, an emerging discipline in which organisations attempt to operationalise the research function. The overall intention is to reduce inefficiency across projects by creating repeatable processes with ready-to-apply methods and templates.
To begin this process I created a journey map based on recent discovery projects that I had been involved in, using Smaply. The map documented the stages involved in our current research process, the people responsible or involved at each stage, the tools that are used and any outputs that are created. It highlighted any known pain points, as well as things that work particularly well within the current process.
This map then formed the basis of individual interviews with the rest of the Lagom team, where I asked them to identify any missing steps in the process before elaborating on any pain points that were felt in their particular roles. This culminated in a more detailed journey map, which identified the strengths, risks, inefficiencies and outputs of our current research process.
Reflecting on the findings, it is clear that we have a well defined research process across our discovery projects. However, there are several areas that could be improved upon going forwards. I presented the findings from the mapping back to the team at a recent team day, which allowed us to reflect and identify opportunities for improvement in future projects.
Although this is the start of a larger piece of work understanding and improving the research ops at Lagom, there are already some key insights.
Before beginning this process, I did some reading around current research ops work being carried out in different organisations. One of the consistent themes appeared to be people struggling to operationalise the research process within their respective companies. In particular, this related to creating an environment whereby people understand the value of research and making sure that people across the organisation see research as a team sport.
In carrying out this mapping within Lagom I did not experience the same frustrations. Lagom is a research focused company and everyone understands the value of rigorous research, and were more than happy to have discussions about how the processes could be improved. I also think that being a small company helped to facilitate the process.
Additionally we work in an agile way, therefore people were open to discussions on how this process could be improved to create a better research environment. I think a combination of these factors made the process easier than it may be in other organisations where research isn’t as deeply integrated.
Furthermore, I was surprised at the length of time required to talk to the team and get feedback on our current processes. Our process is quite defined and relatively straightforward, with specific outputs consistently required across all projects. Despite this, conversations took on average 3 hours per person, spread across multiple sessions.
I would encourage anyone carrying out similar work in the future to acknowledge this from the outset and make sure that enough time is dedicated to the data collection aspect of the work. I suspect this would be an even greater challenge to larger organisations seeking to carry out a similar process evaluation.
I also found it interesting that people were aware of pain points in their particular roles and had suggestions on how to improve the process already. Many of the suggested improvements had the potential to be quick wins, whereby a relatively small change in the current process could lead to an immediate improvement. I think this suggests that it would be worthwhile for us to make sure that we have mechanisms in place for people to regularly give voice to these kinds of research ops issues and improvements.
Mapping the research process represents the start of an effort to operationalise research within the company. I will aim to provide further updates as we continue the process over the coming weeks.