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  • Matthew Doty

How to build an XD Capability: A "Secret Sauce" Conversation with XDGO!

Updated: May 4, 2023

At XDGO!, we LOVE conversations like these...

The moment our clients grasp the breadth & depth of the value we can add, their eyes light up and the conversation turns to how we can best help.

Since seeing is believing, we wanted to share this post to show a bit of the “secret sauce” it takes to build an XD capability for our clients.

Let’s pick up that conversation we started…

While these stages are simple to understand, they are not easy to successfully implement and require significant skill/experience to do well.

Here they are…

1. Stabilize the environment

2. Establish the capability

3. Grow the team

4. Mature the capability

5. Optimize performance

Although these stages seem very linear, there is significant overlap between each as shown in the figure below:

At this point, our client's usually ask...


Stabilize the Environment

It’s important to note that in earlier iterations of this model, “Stabilize” didn’t even exist. That all changed when a particularly large organization wanted a new capability built in the heart of an exceptionally challenging culture. Before we could even think of “Establishing” anything, certain things needed to be true about the environment. Hence “Stabilize” was added.



​Soothe the pain

  • ​Fill immediate gaps by rolling up our sleeves, assisting with urgent work & bringing in trusted 3rd parties

​Nurture relationships

  • Understand & partner with executives, leaders & teams across the organization

  • Establish trust

  • Ensure a collaborative work model

​Envision the capability

  • ​Assess skills/processes, draft current-state experience journeys, blueprint the future skills/team/org structure

  • Align on a shared vision for the new capability


Establish the Capability

If we use a gardening analogy, then “Stabilize” is all about effectively preparing the ground so whatever we plant has the best chance to flourish.

If we continue that same analogy, then “Establish” is about planting the seeds of a durable, flexible XD capability.



Demonstrate the value of XD & the human-centered mindset

  • ​Evangelize success

  • Teach & train the organization

Drive & shape the XD capability

  • ​Co-create & implement XD processes, ways of working SOPs etc

Document & track success

  • ​Establish performance measures for XD leadership & staff

  • Identify & track KPIs for the XD capability & its impact on the organization


Grow the Team

Once the environment is sufficiently stable, and the value of a human-centered mindset is beginning to take root, we are ready to lean into growing the team in-earnest.

The "Grow" stage is primarily focused on investing in the right breadth/depth of talent, hiring the initial XD cohort & aiming them at the right work at the right time.



​Hire the team(s)

  • Develop job profiles & succession paths

  • Hire initial cohort of senior talent

  • Hire additional talent as needed

Align needs with skills & aspirations

  • ​Iterative resource management & resource planning

  • Regular assessments of XD skills & individual aspirations


Mature the Capability

As our clients experience sustained success with their newly formed XD capabilities, we need to ensure that we don’t get too comfortable.

Since the standard for great experiences is always growing, changing & maturing, we help our clients keep pace.



Expand skills

  • Formal & informal training

  • Individual coaching & career development support

Expand team

  • Establish 2nd tier leadership team

  • Hire specialized & junior XD talent


Optimize Performance

We can always do better! This is why we are constantly on the lookout for ways to help our clients make the best and most effective use of their XD capabilities.

Improvements sometimes take the form of refinements to the talent pool. At other times, it's more about refining our processes/ways of working.



Refine the capability

  • Iteratively reevaluate the XD capability vision, purpose, objectives, KPI's, etc.

  • Reorganize & refocus teams as needed

  • Add skills/roles as needed

Optimize the workflow

  • Iteratively reevaluate the XD processes/ways of working

  • Reorganize/refocus XD teams as needed

  • Add skills/roles as needed

Our clients often ask an important question at this point...

Because we’re good consultants, we are almost required to say ‘It depends’ (not really:)). Of course there’s more to it than that. The length of our engagement mostly depends on the answers to two important questions...

  1. How mature is your current XD capability?

  2. What kind of effort will it take to achieve your goals?

We’ve worked with a wide variety of clients with varying responses to these two questions. For the purposes of this post, we’ll use two examples that represent extreme opposites. These should give you a better idea of how much time it takes.

Client A vs. Client B

As you can see here, Client A is essentially starting at "ground-zero" and needs a lot of help. Client B, on the other hand, already has a significant XD capability and requires less effort. To make this more real, we've outlined what both "Maturity" & "Effort" might look like for each client.

For Client A...

XD Maturity

​Effort Needed


  • ​Nobody is explicitly accountable for intentionally designing experiences

  • "Design" means "make it pretty"

  • Core XD competencies (e.g. research, strategy, design) are either non-existent or anemic

  • Design decisions are made by committee & based solely on "gut feel"

  • ​For these types of engagements, we essentially act as the Head of Design for Client A

  • We would be helping Client A build their new XD capability & team from scratch

Typical Duration:​

  • 6 - 24 months

Typical allocation

  • 20 - 40 hrs/week

For Client B...

XD Maturity

​Effort Needed


  • ​XD team exists & has senior/executive leadership influence

  • Design is viewed as a strategic differentiator & competitive advantage

  • Core XD competencies (e.g. research, strategy, design) have taken root

  • Fundamental XD processes & ways of working are in place

  • ​Executive coaching

  • Design leadership support

  • Skills training

  • Workshop facilitaiton

Typical Duration:​

  • 1 - 10 days (for training/ workshops)

  • 1 - 3 months (for other engagements)

Typical allocation

  • 2 - 40 hrs/week

More often than not, our clients are now ready to take the conversation to the next level...

It all starts with a 30-minute conversation. We love to learn more about your individual circumstances and what services might make most sense for you. The best way to do that is to grab some time with us here.

During this conversation, we'll discuss your situation & objectives. We'll also introduce you to the concept of Experience Design (XD) and discuss how the principles & techniques of a more human-centered approach could support your objectives.

After this conversation, we'll send you a summary of our services and propose ways XDGO! can specifically help you.

We’re excited to meet you!

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