2 minute read

Two useful frameworks for design leaders to describe their activities:

  1. Product, people, practice, person. From Julie Zhou’s The Making of a Manager. She talks about three buckets to sort a manager’s tasks into: purpose (the outcome the team is trying to accomplish, though for a product design team this is mostly product), people (self explanatory, members of your team and team culture), process (generally about how the team works; since process is sometimes a loaded word, practice is better plus it also describes all design activities a team does, not everything is a process). Also added person, as leaders we need to remember to also develop the right routines and spend the right amount of time on our well-being and on growth.
  2. Coach, diplomat, advocate, architect. This a blueprint from Peter Merholz’s talk Coach, Diplomat, Advocate, Architect: The Four Archetypes of the Design Leader for design leaders. The for archetypes in this model describe all the ways a design leader needs to be successful. Broadly speaking coach is about managing down, diplomat is managing across teams, advocate is managing up, and architect is about scaling up from team level to org level.

These are useful about themselves, but can they somehow combined to provide some grouping of activates and outcomes?

  • Product
    • Coach: Guidance on design/research work, vision of success, help understand strategy, how initiatives, projects are connected. Through dialogues or other types of collaboration. Critiques. Help by (re)framing.
    • Diplomat: Understand and share goals, incentives, plans, approaches, results. Make teams / collaborating designers successful by acting as glube.
    • Advocate: Share insights, results by the team, push back request ideas that don’t make sense to design for.
    • Architect: Figure out what’s the right org to reach product goals.
  • People
    • Coach: Guidance of career / personal development, even productivity tips. Create a team culture that is safe, inclusive, fun. Manage egos, strengths, weaknesses.
    • Diplomat: Design winning “three amigos”, good matchups for product teams matching personalities, skills. Manage performance expectations, what design can or cannot do given constraints or trade-offs.
    • Advocate: Fight for budget, headcounts, perks, raises. Manage expectations, don’t stretch too thin.
    • Architect: Career ladders, promotion practices, career development, figure out how to grow internal talent. Hiring process, onboarding, feedback on performance, 360 degree peer reviews.
  • Practice
    • Coach: Train on practices, techniques, methods.
    • Diplomat: Figure out how practices work for not only design, but other orgs, but don’t let too much, design is not like other disciplines.
    • Advocate: Internal talks, show (and tell) while on product work, talk about design thinking, discovery, user research, concepts, visions. Explain what’s possible and how to get to desired outcomes.
    • Architect: Understand maturity, raise maturity, provide the right tools, establish design quality on scale (principles, design system), show off great examples of work, operations.
  • Person
    • Coach: Find yourself mentor / coach / peer support group. Define what success looks for yourself, if you mess up, learn from it. Set personal goals.
    • Diplomat: ask for feedback, check your principles and purpose.
    • Advocate: Growth of team means growth of leadership, allow yourself to say no, prioritize your own tasks ruthlessly.
    • Architect: Design how you delegate, who from the team is ready to level up and help you achieve goals, make yourself first scalable, then superfluous for the current activities.