How to manage a UX team
(without losing your mind!)
March 22-26, 2007
IA Summit, Las Vegas
Katrina Alcorn
Principal, User ...
Agenda
Hiring
Inspiring
Firing
Keeping yourself motivated
About me
Making the leap
ka
ducer
What do UX managers do?
Internal companies
 “Evangelize”
 Manage/coach team
 Network in company
 Hire/staff projects
...
UX managers I interviewed
Peter Merholz
President, Adaptive Path
Jennifer Bohmbach
Chief IA, Sun
Microsystems
Richard Dalt...
How is managing UX teams different?
 Challenges of managing creative professionals
 Generalized skill set, varies greatl...
Hiring
 Personal networks only go so far
 We’ve found some great people using resources:
Craigslist (believe it or not)
Industr...
ability to make pretty deliverables, clear communicator,
clear thinker, consulting experience, creativity, education,
enth...
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. P...
*see Jared Spool’s thoughts about generalists versus specialists
http://www.uie.com/brainsparks/2006/09/08/specialists-vs-...
Skill sets I look for
 Information architecture
 Interaction design
 Technical prowess
 Group facilitation skills
 Us...
People tend to have these...
 Information architecture
 Interaction design
 Technical prowess
 Group facilitation skil...
or these...
 Information architecture
 Interaction design
 Technical prowess
 Group facilitation skills
 User researc...
Juniors vs. Seniors?*
*Adapted from“Managing the Professional Services Firm”
Too much procedural work Too much brain work
...
Juniors vs. Seniors
UX staffing at boutique agencies
Principals, practice leads
Senior practitioners
Justin, the intern
Some mistakes in staffing
 “We had a brilliant interaction designer who was a freelancer.
We pushed him to be an employee...
Inspiring
Bad boss behavior
Bad boss behavior*
 39% said their supervisor failed to keep promises.
 37% said their supervisor failed to give credit ...
 Give clear direction
 …but don’t micromanage
 Keep me in the loop
 …but act as a buffer from company angst
 Facilita...
 Projects that offer value that I can see
 Clear, direct feedback (positive or negative)
 Working with visual designers...
People should do what they love
“It lets you get off the consulting hamster wheel.”— Peter
Encourage downtime projects
Encourage group learning
 Weekly team meetings
 Takes classes, go to conferences, report back
 Host an off-site
 “Inno...
Design
Have a process and be prepared to deviate from it
Discovery Strategy Build Transfer
Create an environment where people can do their best work
 At Hot: UX > Senior UX > Director > Principal
 At Adaptive Path: 3 tracks
 Practice development
 People management
 ...
Firing
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 partn...
 Great ideas, but poor presentation
 Difficulty collaborating with project team
 Poor time management; leads to sloppy ...
Problem Is this a
pattern?
Address it
and move
on
Can it be
fixed?
Prepare
to say
goodbye
Define clear
steps to
resolve
Ch...
Giving feedback
 Establish a connection.
 Express criticism as a question.
 Listen to his side. Really listen.
 Be cle...
Feedback model* (thanks Livia!)
 Step 1. Ask
“May I share some feedback with you?”
 Step 2. Describe specific behavior
“...
Motivating yourself
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 ...
“…for the typical manager of professionals, the day is broken up
into numerous small chunks of amazing diversity: dealing ...
Be prepared to make some sacrifices
Adapted from “Managing the Professional Services Firm”
How practice leads add value
45%
30%
15%
10%
admin. & financial mat...
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 an...
Other resources
 “Managing the Professional Services Firm,”by David H. Maister
 Design Management Institute, www.dmi.org...
Thanks!
March 22-26, 2007
IA Summit, Las Vegas
Katrina Alcorn
Principal, User Experience and Content, Hot Studio, Inc.
How to Manage a UX Team (without losing your mind!)
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How to Manage a UX Team (without losing your mind!)

  1. 1. How to manage a UX team (without losing your mind!) March 22-26, 2007 IA Summit, Las Vegas Katrina Alcorn Principal, User Experience and Content, Hot Studio, Inc.
  2. 2. Agenda Hiring Inspiring Firing Keeping yourself motivated
  3. 3. About me
  4. 4. Making the leap ka ducer
  5. 5. What do UX managers do? Internal companies  “Evangelize”  Manage/coach team  Network in company  Hire/staff projects  Project work  Teach/write  Admin/operations/ new processes External agencies  Sales  Manage/coach team  Client relations  Hire/staff projects  Project work  Teach/write  Admin/operations/ new processes
  6. 6. UX managers I interviewed Peter Merholz President, Adaptive Path Jennifer Bohmbach Chief IA, Sun Microsystems Richard Dalton UX Manager, Vanguard Livia Labate Sr. Manager IA & Usability, Comcast Catherine Courage, Andrew Sandler UX Managers, Salesforce.com Lillian Svec UC Santa Cruz Extension
  7. 7. How is managing UX teams different?  Challenges of managing creative professionals  Generalized skill set, varies greatly  Staffing 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”
  8. 8. Hiring
  9. 9.  Personal networks only go so far  We’ve found some great people using 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 fields  Think of hiring as an ongoing process Where do you find people?
  10. 10. ability to make pretty deliverables, clear communicator, clear thinker, consulting experience, creativity, education, enthusiasm, fit 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 proficiency, talent, variety of work, years of experience What to look for in a hire
  11. 11. Katrina’s cardinal rule Don’t hire closed people
  12. 12. 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 effectively, 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 flexible and creative about how they conduct their research. Rigorous academics aren’t enough.”— Lillian
  13. 13. *see Jared Spool’s thoughts about generalists versus specialists http://www.uie.com/brainsparks/2006/09/08/specialists-vs-generalists/ Diversify your team  Hire people with complementary skill sets*  Hire people with room for growth (or they’ll get bored)  Involve your team in selecting new hires
  14. 14. 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
  15. 15. People tend to have these...  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
  16. 16. or these...  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
  17. 17. Juniors vs. Seniors?* *Adapted from“Managing the Professional Services Firm” Too much procedural work Too much brain work = current staff = required staff Need more juniors Need more seniors
  18. 18. Juniors vs. Seniors UX staffing at boutique agencies Principals, practice leads Senior practitioners Justin, the intern
  19. 19. Some mistakes in staffing  “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 fit. 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, find a round peg.
  20. 20. Inspiring
  21. 21. Bad boss behavior
  22. 22. Bad boss behavior*  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 "silent treatment" 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 Findings from a survey of more than 700 workers by researchers at the Florida State University College of Business:
  23. 23.  Give clear direction  …but don’t micromanage  Keep me in the loop  …but act as a buffer from company angst  Facilitate and encourage my learning  Show you care about my well being and my work  Show you have confidence in me  Give me honest, regular, informal feedback  Be a good“coach”  Listen well, appreciate multiple points of view  Show maturity, breadth of experience Hot UX: Most important qualities in a manager? “Recognize my strengths and weaknesses. Give me opportunities to shine, and low-risk opportunities to grow.”
  24. 24.  Projects that offer value that I can see  Clear, direct feedback (positive or negative)  Working with visual designers to find creative solutions  Trying new things  Opportunities to be creative or challenged  Making people (client, boss, colleagues) happy Hot UX: What motivates you? “An avid interest in the project subject/concept is the biggest motivator for me to do great work.”
  25. 25. People should do what they love
  26. 26. “It lets you get off the consulting hamster wheel.”— Peter Encourage downtime projects
  27. 27. Encourage group learning  Weekly team meetings  Takes classes, go to conferences, report back  Host an off-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
  28. 28. Design Have a process and be prepared to deviate from it Discovery Strategy Build Transfer
  29. 29. Create an environment where people can do their best work
  30. 30.  At Hot: UX > Senior UX > Director > Principal  At Adaptive Path: 3 tracks  Practice development  People management  Industry presence  At Salesforce: 2 tracks  Principal  Management Define the career path
  31. 31. Firing
  32. 32. How do you know there’s a problem?
  33. 33. 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
  34. 34.  Great ideas, but poor presentation  Difficulty collaborating with project team  Poor time management; leads to sloppy work  Unmotivated, thinking is lazy Common performance issues
  35. 35. Problem Is this a pattern? Address it and move on Can it be fixed? Prepare to say goodbye Define clear steps to resolve Check on progress No Yes/Maybe Yes No Your decision tree
  36. 36. 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 specific 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.
  37. 37. Feedback model* (thanks Livia!)  Step 1. Ask “May I share some feedback with you?”  Step 2. Describe specific 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
  38. 38. Motivating yourself
  39. 39. 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
  40. 40. “…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 staff member, analyzing financial 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” What’s it really like?
  41. 41. Be prepared to make some sacrifices
  42. 42. Adapted from “Managing the Professional Services Firm” How practice leads add value 45% 30% 15% 10% admin. & financial matters (10%) billable work (10-20%) client relations (20-40%) managing team (30-60%)
  43. 43. Learn to bask in others’success
  44. 44. Find a pet project and hang on to it
  45. 45. 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 significant improvements.” — Jennifer  “Creating an environment where great people can do great work that supports their individual goals.”— Peter
  46. 46. 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 Differently,”by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
  47. 47. Thanks! March 22-26, 2007 IA Summit, Las Vegas Katrina Alcorn Principal, User Experience and Content, Hot Studio, Inc.

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