Published on June 18, 2008
How to manage a UX team (without losing your mind!) June 16-20, 2008 UPA international conference Baltimore, MD Katrina Alcorn Principal, User Experience and Content, Hot Studio, Inc.
Agenda Hiring Inspiring Firing Keeping yourself motivated
Making the leap ka ducer
What do UX managers do? Internal companies External agencies “Evangelize” Sales Manage/coach team Manage/coach team Network in company Client relations Hire/sta projects Hire/sta projects Project work Project work Teach/write Teach/write Admin/operations/ Admin/operations/ new processes new processes
UX teams may look like this... information researchers visual designers architects
or like this... usability analysts ethnographic researchers graphic designers design strategists information architects interaction designers writers/content experts
or like this... We do research, strategy, IA, interaction design, and more. I write, among other things. content strategist/ writer user experience architects
UX managers I interviewed Peter Merholz Jennifer Bohmbach Livia Labate Richard Dalton President, Adaptive Path Chief IA, Sun Sr. Manager IA & Usability, UX Manager, Vanguard Microsystems Comcast Catherine Courage, Andrew Sandler Lillian Svec UX Managers, Salesforce.com UC Santa Cruz Extension
How is managing UX teams di erent? Challenges of managing creative professionals Generalized skill set, varies greatly Sta ng model External pressures (“what do you guys do?”) “Professionals, like athletes, when left to their own devices, don’t accomplish as much as they do when they are supported by a good coach.” — David H. Maister, “Managing the Professional Services Firm”
Where do you nd people? Personal networks only go so far We’ve found some great people using these resources: Craigslist (believe it or not) Industry groups like ASIS-T, IA Institute LinkedIn Others swear by Recruiting fairs at ID Lots and lots of networking Internships Look for people transitioning from other elds Think of hiring as an ongoing process
What to look for in a hire ability to make pretty deliverables, clear communicator, clear thinker, consulting experience, creativity, education, enthusiasm, t with the team, general job skills (IA, interaction design, strategy, personas, research), good listener, interest in learning new things, presentation skills, personal work style, personality, quick learner, software pro ciency, talent, variety of work, years of experience
Katrina’s cardinal rule Don’t hire closed people
What to look for in a hire “Passion is tops. They need to have a love for the work.”— Peter “Good critical thinkers. People who get the big picture.” — Jennifer “Good communication. If you can’t communicate e ectively, you can’t do your job.”— Catherine “At Salesforce, everybody codes. You have to have technical competence.”— Andrew “A serious commitment to the IA community.”— Livia “Soft skills! We work in teams a lot. You have to collaborate well.” — Richard “With researchers, you want them to be exible and creative about how they conduct their research. Rigorous academics aren’t enough.” — Lillian
Skill sets I look for Information architecture Interaction design Technical prowess Group facilitation skills User research Ethnographic studies Interviews Personas Surveys Usability testing Other research/analysis Competitive audits Heuristic audits Writing/content strategy
Juniors vs. Seniors?* Too much procedural work Too much brain work Need more seniors Need more juniors = current sta *Adapted from “Managing the Professional Services Firm” = required sta
Juniors vs. Seniors UX sta ng at boutique agencies Principals, practice leads Senior practitioners Justin, the intern
Some mistakes in sta ng “We had a brilliant interaction designer who was a freelancer. We pushed him to be an employee, and it was a mistake. He was unemployable.” “I hired someone who I knew was a bad personality t. I should have listened to my gut. We eventually parted ways.” “The worst hiring decision I made was when I didn’t follow my own instincts. I was swayed by my boss’ opinion.” “I made the mistake of putting someone in a leadership role when he was more of a detail person. It took a lot of coaching.” Moral: If you have a round hole, nd a round peg.
Bad boss behavior
Bad boss behavior* Findings from a survey of more than 700 workers by researchers at the Florida State University College of Business: 39% said their supervisor failed to keep promises. 37% said their supervisor failed to give credit when due. 31% said their supervisor gave them the quot;silent treatmentquot; in the past year. 27% said their supervisor made negative comments about them to other employees or managers. 24% said their supervisor invaded their privacy. 23% said their supervisor blames others to cover up mistakes or minimize embarrassment. *Source: Florida State University
Hot UX: Most important qualities in a manager? Give clear direction …but don’t micromanage Keep me in the loop …but act as a bu er from company angst Facilitate and encourage my learning Show you care about my well being and my work Show you have con dence in me Give me honest, regular, informal feedback Be a good “coach” Listen well, appreciate multiple points of view Show maturity, breadth of experience “Recognize my strengths and weaknesses. Give me opportunities to shine, and low-risk opportunities to grow.”
Hot UX: What motivates you? Projects that o er value that I can see Clear, direct feedback (positive or negative) Working with visual designers to nd creative solutions Trying new things Opportunities to be creative or challenged Making people (client, boss, colleagues) happy “An avid interest in the project subject/concept is the biggest motivator for me to do great work.”
People should do what they love
Encourage downtime projects “It lets you get o the consulting hamster wheel.” — Peter
Encourage group learning Weekly team meetings Takes classes, go to conferences, report back Host an o -site “Innovation exercises” “Vanguard is a pretty progressive place for encouraging people to do the right thing. I can count on one hand the times people brought me a suggestion and I had to say no.” — Richard Dalton, Vanguard
Have a process and be prepared to deviate from it Discovery Strategy Design Build Transfer
Our approach to research Our research Some of these These insights reveals many ndings lead to inspire new and detailed ndings. insights about creative design what the target ideas. audience needs.
Create an environment where people can do their best work
De ne the career path At Hot: UX > Senior UX > Director > Principal At Adaptive Path: 3 tracks Practice development People management Industry presence At Salesforce: 2 tracks Principal Management
How do you know there’s a problem?
How do you know there’s a problem? Have regular 1-on-1s with each team member Check in with clients and business partners Establish good relationships with other disciplines PMs, especially, are your canaries in the coal mine
Common performance issues Great ideas, but poor presentation Di culty collaborating with project team Poor time management; leads to sloppy work Unmotivated, thinking is lazy
Your decision tree No Address it Problem Is this a and move pattern? on Yes Prepare Can it be No to say fixed? goodbye Yes/Maybe De ne clear steps to resolve Check on progress
Giving feedback Establish a connection. Express criticism as a question. Listen to his side. Really listen. Be clear in your feedback, keep emotion out of it. Use speci c examples. Basic communication 101 Example: “I can’t give this to the client because _________.” Example: “This creates a problem for me because _______.” Don’t wimp out. You can’t be everyone’s friend, but you don’t have to be a jerk, either. If something is a chronic problem, you need to document it.
Feedback model* (thanks Livia!) Step 1. Ask “May I share some feedback with you?” Step 2. Describe speci c behavior “Jane, when you stick your tongue out at clients . . .” Step 3. Describe impact of behavior “. . . here’s what happens. It hurts the team morale. . .” Step 4. Discuss next steps “What can you do to change this behavior?” or “How can I help you?” * More at www.manager-tools.com/feedback-model
What’s it really like? “When you’re a manager, you’re very aware of how the sausage gets made. You have to be comfortable with that.” — Peter
What’s it really like? “…for the typical manager of professionals, the day is broken up into numerous small chunks of amazing diversity: dealing with a disgruntled client, handling the personal problems of a sta member, analyzing nancial reports, interviewing a potential new recruit, approving various administrative arrangements, working on a new business presentation, and a thousand other matters, each of which must, in rapid succession, command the manager’s full attention.” — David H. Maister, “Managing the Professional Services Firm”
Be prepared to make some sacri ces
How practice leads add value admin. & ﬁnancial matters (10%) billable work (10-20%) 10% client relations (20-40%) managing team (30-60%) 15% 45% 30% Adapted from “Managing the Professional Services Firm”
Learn to bask in others’ success
Find a pet project and hang on to it
What do you like about your job? “There’s no one standing over my shoulder. I have a lot of autonomy for project work and non-project work.”— Richard “I like getting recognition within the company of the power of IA as its own service.” — Livia “There’s always something interesting going on here. I like doing things that expand the work, making signi cant improvements.” — Jennifer “Creating an environment where great people can do great work that supports their individual goals.”— Peter
Other resources “Managing the Professional Services Firm,” by David H. Maister Design Management Institute, www.dmi.org www.manager-tools.com “Getting Things Done: the Art of Stress-free Productivity,” by David Allen “First Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Di erently,” by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Co man
Thanks! June 16-20, 2008 UPA international conference Baltimore, MD Katrina Alcorn Principal, User Experience and Content, Hot Studio, Inc.
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