Strategy across Professional Levels, Organizations & Measuring Outcomes. Strategy is something that can be applicable to any professional in any field, and not something reserved for Senior Level or C-Level class executives. For Designers, in whatever field and seniority they find themselves in, it’s in fact something they should always cultivate and nurture. It forces one to organize thoughts, be systematic and hopefully consistent & coherent in order to achieve the goals underlying that Strategy.
For Designers starting a career in the industry, it’s important that they devise a strategy for where they see themselves evolving into, particularly these days, where there are so many options and fields one can specialize in. One of the most common interview questions which invariably pops up during a hiring process is of course, “Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years”. Even if that question at times can elicit some reservation, from both sides, and depending on the response given, for the candidate in particular, it should be a topic of reflection, essentially devise a strategy for how they foresee their careers evolving. This exercise of forecasting on a career level, forces one to self-evaluate, understand areas benefiting improvement, and potentially areas where to focus on or move into. From a recruiter perspective, it allows for the team hiring to understand the professional being interviewed is thoughtful, organized, and strategic about how they envision their path being carved out.
Strategy is oddly enough, very similar to the qualities of long lasting brands. In order to bear fruits, it should be focused, adaptive and deliberate. A Design professional, independently of its seniority, should always be focused (and self aware enough), to progressively understand where to shift his/hers attention, seek aspects which can benefit ones self development, always be flexible, well informed and educated. Technology, Design, Innovation, these are fields which are continuously evolving, therefore having strategies on keeping oneself always updated and abreast of these developments is another good way to approach a delineation of a strategy. These examples surface the fact that Strategy is something that is applicable across professionals, experience levels, fields of expertise, demographics, among many other factors, but when it comes to Designers in particular, and for those who want to impact the direction of their group, there are a series of aspects to consider when being strategic or outlining a strategy.
Typically, when tackling Strategy, I’ve divided it in three complimentary venues: Operational, Aspirational and Human. Operational, as the term indicates, seeks to identify ways to improve operational aspects of the Design Practice. That can include Tools utilized by the teams, Improving Efficiencies by creating easily shareable toolkits for teams to use, Establishing succinct and substantial Onboarding Practices, Defining Processes for different product and feature initiatives the teams tackle, Documentation which can be easily parsed and consumed through (including topics from Research processes, Workshop Templates, Reports Templates, Usability Testing Models, and the list goes on), to name but a few. Aspirational strategy of course is tied with the direction of the Organization itself, how it trickles across its ranks and how it clearly marries itself with the direction of the Design Group. This is where typically different paths and explorations can be outlined, identifying possible scenarios of applicability, outlining in the process expected outcomes and measurable outputs. This type of Strategy should be something highly nurtured by all team members, since it’s not uncommon for these types of initiatives to be placed in a supporting position in detriment of immediate tasks which require instant attention. Human Strategy, pertains of course to the evolution of the teams and Design Professionals themselves. Much like a Designer’s personal professional Strategy, a team itself also should have a sense of strategy to themselves. And for a Design Leader, it’s particular important to assess where the team is coming from, how that same team is going to keep evolving, and where it eventually needs to be, in order to also sustain the initiatives of the organization itself. All these group strategies of course, can only be as successful as they also align with the individuals within a team, which of course implies, having a sense of where the professionals on the team see themselves go and making impactful contributions. Again and reinstating the earlier statement: Strategy is the more effective as it converges its vision, as it sets its goals, and how to measure its accomplishments.