Cultural and organisational transformation of teams


Since it was established in 1976, Decathlon’s mission has been to make the benefits of sport accessible to as many people as possible. The company is known for its innovative approach across all stages of its business and for growing and expanding responsibly and sustainably.

Decathlon has been operating in Spain since 1992 and now has 178 stores spread throughout the country. Its team is very much aware of the values championed by the French parent company. In March 2020, the pandemic brought the digital channel to the forefront and the UX/UI design division’s impact on the rest of the business and the need to empower it became evident.

Bespoke mentoring

We first got to know the team in depth through passive observation and personal interviews. This enabled us to grasp the real workflow, the roles within the team, the tools and technology available to them, the skills of each member, the needs of their projects and their upstream/downstream SLAs.

Armed with all this information, we devised a mentoring proposal based on monthly cycles. Our greatest challenge, and at the same time our greatest success, was to find a way to organically become part of the Decathlon Spain team so we could do our job as mentors from the inside, adding value and helping them to make the changes needed in their everyday routine.

The cycles we worked with lasted four weeks and were anchored in training and actions divided into three categories:

  • Efficiency. Bolstered through enhancing the workflow by tapping agile practices which help to streamline value delivery. Also by increasing team cohesion and trust and reinforcing roles via team-building activities.
  • Technical expertise. Conveyed by way of UX/UI training, dynamics and workshops on design and research techniques.
  • Evidence-based. Rolling out a design culture built on analysing objective data reaching beyond the designer’s experience and intuition.

Transferring the Runroom culture

Our way of working and implementing processes is unique and we can only convey it by being exceptionally accessible and approachable. The greatest value contribution in this project was sharing our work methodology in team management and DesignOps, the package of actions aimed at maximising the value and impact of design in a corporation.

Over two distinct stages and with the support of several Runroom members, we helped the Decathlon Spain team learn to use a design system, automate parts of the process, upgrade the quality of deliverables and in general be much more effective and efficient.

On a team level, it was crucial to capture the style and approach of each member to help them understand themselves and each other, thus making it possible to craft more respectful, productive and constructive professional relationships.

Strategy and processes for upskilling and team empowerment

After the kickoff, we began with a preliminary assessment which lasted one month. We built the team’s skill matrix and also explored its context using a people-centred research methodology: observation, shadowing, interviews and co-creation. We got to know the team and broadened the perspective to understand its interactions with stakeholders.

The approach was extremely respectful as well as critical. It was not about imposing our vision but rather discovering, based on everything the team was doing, what was driving them to success and repositioning? What was holding them back?

Once we had grasped the ecosystem and the challenges, the strategy emerged seamlessly. We knew that we had to work on expertise, efficiency and evidence in five formats: 1-on-1 meetings, role-playing meetings, bespoke training, attending various rituals and pairing or spaces on demand.

It was like doubling the size of the team and the projects overnight. Everything was successfully orchestrated by sticking to the methodology in place (the three strategic pillars and the five formats). Another crucial factor was without question agreeing on specific days when the team knew that we were fully available to them, while the rest of the time they could call on us whenever they needed to on a more flexible yet always accessible basis. This enabled us to build a schedule pattern which dovetailed with the two situations.

Regular development metrics are essential to monitor impact and hone actions while also keeping the team motivated. In one year we conducted three measuring points: the first to understand the baseline, one at the halfway point to see the impact generated and where to target efforts in the last period, and finally the closing one to get a sense of the feeling of development the team was taking away with them.

Embedding improvements; results from day one

Our presence as mentors varied, ranging from discreet observation from the back of the room, a high profile in trainings and facilitations, and then back to melting into the shadows of a transformed team leading initiatives and techniques engaging several stakeholders.

The outcomes of the self-assessment work speak for themselves:

The most developed hard skills were user validation, visual design and conceptualisation. The result undoubtedly meets the strategy of taking the team to the next level in evidence-based product design.

Plus together with building up technical knowhow such as information architecture and user flows, facilitation skills have been significantly enhanced as an essential aptitude for working in multidisciplinary teams and for positioning between perimeters in the company. This is salient given that one of the goals set in this empowerment process was to cement and promote the design team as a leader and in charge of looking after the customer experience above and beyond visual aspects.

Para profundizar en la experiencia de transformación de procesos y cultura del equipo de diseño de experiencias digitales, te invitamos a escuchar las declaraciones de Naré Sánchez, Líder de Experiencia Digital en Decathlon.

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