Design leaders have asked me how I measure the impact of my job, which prompted me to reflect on my work as Head of Design. Every leader strives to make an impact, and I’m no exception. We often equate results with what we ship, but the concept of “done” as a leader isn’t as simple as releasing features or products. Additionally, the results you might strive for will be different based on the organisation’s type, design maturity, and the role you play in the organisation as a whole.
How do you make an impact as a designer leader if you do not design products anymore?
As a design leader in an organisation with a growing design maturity, I work very closely with my team ensuring that we design the right thing and that we design it right.
Designing the right thing
- I support designers in challenging briefs and exploring problems; I support them in working with product managers and developers to break things apart and go further in their thinking. This means creating personal and professional relationships with product managers and leaders to ensure designers are provided with a brief that defines the problem and gives them space to investigate it further
- I strive to create space for designers by working with other leaders to evangelise the value that design brings when giving space for discovery
- I coach my team on research and design, providing them with a platform to showcase their work. Often this results in internal and external presentations. The more we showcase what we do, the better it is for our involvement in future projects
Designing the thing right
- I support designers in pushing boundaries when they come up with solutions. It’s also pivotal to build connections with other members of the organisation, such as developers or data scientists – they can offer a different point of view on the problem and help to form a solution
- Create a culture of continuous feedback across the team to encourage design sharing. For example, hold weekly design critiques to ask for feedback, as well as post questions asynchronously on Slack. I’ve found that when you ask for feedback or share challenges, others on the team will follow suit
- Establish the right cadences within sprints to ensure the team has opportunities to come together to plan, evaluate work and ask for support if needed
In conclusion, making an impact as a design leader is not just about the products and features that are shipped but also about creating an environment of trust and collaboration where everyone can bring their best ideas forward and the team is empowered to take risks and innovate. It is also about having a clear vision and direction for the team and providing the necessary resources and support to bring that vision to life. Ultimately, it is about creating a space where the team can thrive and reach its full potential.