How to lead user-centred design

My brief notes from the Government Digital Service (GDS) essentials of leadership training, run by Rebecca Kemp and Ade Adewunmi.

Tell a good story

  • Learn how to talk about what you and your team do.
  • Learn how to talk to people who aren't familiar with user-centred design.
  • Help your team to talk about it too.
  • Make sure you can talk about your profession, and the product you are working on.

Find common ground

  • Not everybody cares about user-centred design, so don't be a purist.
  • You only have to convince people enough to let you do your job, you don't have to convert them.
  • Acknowledge other peoples' expertise.
  • Work to find common ground, almost everyone wants to improve the service they're working on in some way. Learn how to talk about things in a way that they can relate to.
  • Be pragmatic. What concrete steps can you take to improve the service? Making everything better for everyone at the same time is impossible.
  • Learn how much things cost, and show people what savings can be made.

Look after your team (and yourself)

  • Protect your team from things that can disrupt their flow.
  • Make decisions for them (when they need you to).
  • Leading can be exhausting. It requires a lot of emotional labour. Find things that you can do to recharge. Plan at least one of these things into your schedule every week.
  • Don't let yourself burn out.
  • Speak to friends and mentors outside of your organisation.

Further reading

Leadership skills when you’re in the business of disruption by Ade Adewunmi