Spotlight: Kevin Turchyn on how Whirlpool Corporation relentlessly tests key assumptions for breakthrough results

James Flory

Whirlpool Corporation is a world leader in the appliance industry, bringing its users a cutting edge digital experience with the help of a robust experimentation program. We sat down with Kevin Turchyn, Senior Manager – Digital Products to discuss his career growth at Whirlpool and how experimentation has played a critical role in his success at the organization by relentlessly testing key assumptions for breakthrough results.

Note: if you’re interested in hearing more about how experimentation works at Whirlpool, sign up to our upcoming Open Book Session on the 15th of Feb, where Kevin will be chatting with our very own James Flory about how he and the Whirlpool team have built and scaled a high-impact testing program.

You’ve been at Whirlpool for over 13 years, how has your understanding of the relationship between successfully developing digital products and experimentation grown over that time?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have split my career here between B2B and D2C. Through this, I’ve seen the differences in access to information with which to make confident digital product decisions. In contrast to our over 110 years of experience and collaboration with our B2B customers that supports building successful physical and digital products, D2C as a whole is relatively new for us and comes with less accessible clarity around the needs of users. This has elevated the importance of experimentation in supporting product discovery and decision making with confidence.

What are some standout ways you have integrated experimentation into your decision making at Whirlpool? Are there any key-takeaways you’d like to highlight to our readers?

We’ve integrated experimentation into our Digital Product organization’s decision making in two main ways. The first is to use User Experience Research (UXR) to help generate and prioritize the problems or opportunities that are most valuable to solve. As an outcome-oriented group, this has helped us better understand the opportunity spaces we have with our users that match well with our business goals.

The second would be to leverage A/B testing to test our assumptions and assess the user and business value of proposed solutions to those problems or opportunities that were identified and prioritized with the help of UXR.

This mixed-methods approach helps us build empathy for our users, avoid unconscious biases, and scientifically understand the value of our proposed solutions before committing them to development. This method is the decision science behind many of our best decisions.

How has experimentation helped with making key business decisions at Whirlpool? Any standout decisions you can highlight?

Even in situations where we are working with experienced professionals with deep industry insight, being able to offer an assumption check has proven to be invaluable to de-risking our solutions. Our experimentation program has confirmed new user experiences that we had strong gut feelings about but also disproved assumptions we held about some “no-brainers”. In the webinar James Flory and I host, I’ll get into more detail about a few specific assumptions that, when tested, generated breakthrough results and another that prevented significant revenue loss.

What are some of the biggest challenges and obstacles in turning experimentation results into business decisions? How have you overcome them?

I’ll address one of the largest issues that I know many experimenters are familiar with, the challenge of winning experiments not being implemented or hard-won insight simply not being acted upon. We’ve been minimizing this challenge in two ways. The first is clear stakeholder sponsorship (or at least ride-along) of most experiments. When we are collaborating closely with the business in discovery, rather than running on a bit of a tangent of our own, the goals are aligned and the results are co-created. That makes acceptance and implementation of the experiment or insight much easier. The second is that our experimentation backlog, roadmap, live tests, and results are shared broadly and regularly in the light of day. Transparency builds our collective understanding and helps us all stay accountable to our broader partners in achieving our goals. This combination of stakeholder involvement and transparency has helped us make sure that good experiment findings make it from the lab to the user.

How have you helped foster a culture of experimentation at Whirlpool? How can teams at other companies learn from the experimentation engine you’ve helped build at the organization?

We’ve had success with our Digital Product organization exercising three principles that have supported a healthy experimentation culture in our organization. These rose naturally over time but we’ve also made conscious efforts to practice them once we knew the impact they had on our experimentation culture.

The first principle is exercised with respect to our stakeholders; “We love your goals”. Through seeing my team use this statement, I’ve witnessed it build a collective outcome-orientation. That phrase also deliberately ends as quoted because this leaves the problem, opportunity, and solution space open to collaboratively use experimentation to discover value with a solution that works for users and our business.

The second is that we are committed to making evidence-based decisions. Here, experimentation is fully embedded in our Digital Products group, so our extended team is in constant contact with business stakeholders who are looking for or even recommending specific solutions. When the entire product group understands how to leverage experimentation in pursuit of an outcome, evidence finding becomes accessible, and the value provided to stakeholders increases because there is commitment to shared goals (see first principle) and evidence-based ways to get there are prioritized.

The third is that we share our work. As I alluded to earlier, our entire program is proactively transparent. We’ve made it a mission to level-up our organization’s knowledge and capability through experimentation. So we share our work in a couple core ways. The first way is through an internal Google Space. This simple space started with a small Canadian following but has grown to an enthusiastic mass throughout Whirlpool globally. This group gets a standardized, predictable, and detailed share-out of what we are doing and learning. I’ve never seen so many 🎉 and 🚀 reactions used to what we publish there. This commitment to sharing has built a strong grass-roots following that continues to send evidence-seekers around Whirlpool’s world our way. We’ve also made sure to get in front of leadership to demonstrate how we can use experimentation to achieve our goals, share select highlights, and detail a clear ROI. Between the grassroots enthusiasm our Google Space has built and the leadership support, we’ve seen experimentation go from sub-culture to cultural norm.

Kevin Turchyn is a Senior Manager – Digital Products at Whirlpool Corporation, where he leads the product group and progresses the entire digital experience of the company. To sign up for his experimentation deep dive on the 15th Feb with our VP of Delivery, James Flory, sign up here. 

And for those of you who interested in learning about what Mixed Method Experimentation is and how it helped Whirlpool imagine a new interstitial experience, read Part 1 of our case study!

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