Case StudyProduct Team: Researching Customers - Enhancing UX Research Through Organizational Separation

LinkedIn, a leading professional networking platform, encountered difficulties in optimizing its UX research function. The challenge was to structure the research teams in a way that allowed for both deep, business-unit-specific insights and broader, strategic UX practices. Traditional, unified structures struggled to balance these needs, often resulting in either a loss of strategic alignment or a lack of detailed, actionable insights. This duality posed a significant barrier to leveraging UX research fully for driving innovation and meeting the strategic needs of the company.

Enhancing UX Research Through Organizational Separation

The Solution

LinkedIn adopted a dual-level organizational structure, distinguishing between centralized and embedded UX research teams. This approach, led by Marieke McCloskey and Kassie Chaney, focused on creating distinct yet collaborative research functions:

  • Centralized Horizontal UX Research Practice: Led by Kassie Chaney, this team was responsible for establishing strategic UX research practices and maintaining a high-level, cross-functional perspective. Their role included developing standardized methodologies, fostering company-wide UX principles, and ensuring consistency in UX practices across the organization.
  • Embedded Business Unit Research Teams: Led by Marieke McCloskey, these teams operated within specific business units, focusing on generating deep, context-specific insights. By being closely integrated with the product teams, they could tailor their research to the unique needs and challenges of each unit, driving more targeted and relevant outcomes.
  • Strategic Separation with Synergistic Integration: While maintaining their distinct roles, the centralized and embedded teams were encouraged to collaborate closely. Regular meetings, joint projects, and cross-functional workshops were conducted to ensure seamless knowledge sharing and to leverage each team's strengths.
  • Continuous Dialogue: Rather than relying on formal presentations, the leaders fostered a culture of continuous dialogue and knowledge exchange. This approach helped in maintaining alignment while allowing flexibility in research approaches and methodologies.

Outcomes achieved

The dual-level organizational structure at LinkedIn delivered substantial value, demonstrating the effectiveness of separating yet integrating research functions:

  • Enhanced Strategic Alignment: The centralized team ensured that UX research practices were aligned with the company’s strategic goals, while the embedded teams provided detailed, actionable insights tailored to specific business needs.
  • Improved Depth and Breadth of Insights: The separation allowed for deeper, more context-specific insights from the embedded teams and broader, more strategic perspectives from the centralized team. This duality enriched the overall research output.
  • Increased Agility and Responsiveness: The embedded teams, being closely integrated with their respective business units, could respond swiftly to immediate needs and challenges, while the centralized team focused on longer-term strategic initiatives.
  • Effective Knowledge Sharing: The continuous dialogue and collaborative projects facilitated effective knowledge sharing between the teams, ensuring that best practices and insights were disseminated throughout the organization.
  • Enhanced Innovation: By leveraging the distinct strengths of both centralized and embedded teams, LinkedIn was able to drive more innovative solutions and faster implementation of research findings.
  • Transparent and Trustworthy Culture: The open approach to discussing the benefits and challenges of the new structure fostered a culture of transparency and trust, which was crucial for the ongoing evolution and success of the research teams.

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