2) Document, document, document
As mentioned earlier, one reason why management is required in the first place is because team members don’t have access to the information and resources they need to make things happen.
You can continue sharing information and providing resources each time collaboration breaks down, or you can document them and make it accessible to everyone. It frees you up to focus on more valuable work, while helping your team be more productive.
For example, I noticed every time a new designer joined us, I would spend more time telling them about tools and how to get access to internal tools, than getting to know them as a person.
So to improve onboarding for new designers, we put together a welcome deck that has everything they need to get up and running. We personalize the deck for every new hire, get it specially printed it out for them, and gift it to them on their first day.
There’s a lot more you can do: document user research notes in a shared folder, share meeting minutes with relevant stakeholders, build a comprehensive design system, record system walkthroughs, print and hang your personas near your workspace, and more.
3) Hire the right people
Now hiring is a different ballgame, but it is fundamental to your long-term success. Your fixes will remain temporary without the right people to follow through on them.
When I started at KeepTruckin, there was just one other designer in my team. Since then, we’ve hired 5 people who constantly raise the bar for great work, help build team culture, and are just plain fun to work with everyday. They also happen to be awesome product designers.
To find these fine folks, I reviewed hundreds of profiles and portfolios, and interviewed dozens of designers. My core finding thus far is you need to hire for both skills and attitude, with slightly greater emphasis on the latter. Avoid egoists with excellent design skills; instead hire kind, growth-oriented people with great design skills and coach them to excellence.
Of course finding people can be a challenge in the first place. I’ve found more success in active, local communities than on international platforms like Dribbble or Behance.
You could join and participate in these communities or go one step further and create one yourself. Community building is a separate topic, but the core gist is you need to provide some value to people: whether that’s through a regular design newsletter, a design blog, or a fun Facebook group is up to you. I started UXDP because I enjoy community building, but it is also now a great talent platform for local companies and designers alike.
Another helpful principle is to hire for skills at a team-level. KeepTruckin’s product design team started off with generalist visual designers. We then hired for generalist interaction design skills, followed by specialist user research, specialist visual design and frontend development skills. So every time we need more people, we think deeply about how we can balance skills at a team-level.
Today, we have a product design team that is greater than than the sum of its parts. We have the skills we need to deliver successful outcomes, and a fun culture which encourages play, and growth through knowledge sharing.
4) Have a vision, and rally the troops
Nothing unites and motivates a team like a bold vision for the future. As a manager, you need to think what your team will achieve, look, and work like 1 year, 5 years, and 10 years down the line. Will you create robust, evolving personas that will be adopted by the entire company? Build a comprehensive design system that outlasts everyone on the team? Have dedicated UX researchers? Skip remote interviews for in-context, ethnographic research? Design a new product that fundamentally changes an industry?
Thinking about this vision, and sharing it with your team in 1:1 meetings, all hands, and design reviews keeps our team motivated, and helps us retain talent.
Of course, it matters that you actually make progress towards that vision or your team won’t trust you. If six months go by and you’re no closer to your vision than before, it’s easy to lose that motivation.
All this talk about vision makes it easy for me to end this article with one of my favorite quotes.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
— Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French writer
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