Great designers help their teammates do their best work
How can I help my co-workers do their best work?
Last week, I was in a meeting where some of my engineering team and I were listening to a research share out from the UX researcher we were working with. At the end of the conversation, one of my teammates asked a question about documentation and UX writing. My other teammate responded saying that he could provide more insight from other teams or resources to help him address his question. Thinking about how this research related to my project, I didn’t think about how the question my teammates asked related directly to work or how I could help him do his work more effectively.
Great designers get involved in conversations, even forcing themselves, instead of just thinking about how they can do their work.
Often times we focus so much on our own work that we don’t think about others and the resources or steps they need to take to ensure success on their end. At the core of product development, designers need rely on engineers and pm. They rely on us and each other as well. That seems straightforward, but what we often forget is that people can’t design in isolation.
How everyone can work together?
At Google, to encourage teamwork, we emphasize the product triad. This triad consists of UX, PM and eng, and the reason why we emphasize this triad is because it is essentially what leads to the development of a product (done well when everyone works together). One way I work together with PM and eng is that I have weekly 1:1s or group meetings with them. This allows me to understand the core functions of how a product will work in relation to design. Questions I might ask is how it’s built in the backend, the product strategy and then question the decisions made in order to make sure I fully understand the tech/business objectives to define workflows that can work with the backend and meet the core goal of the product with design.
All parts of the triad influence and work with each other. Without one or the other, it’s hard to develop a solid product.
When I was onboarding, It was quite overwhelming. I didn’t know where to find resources for my project, let alone understand the space I was working in. Throughout the onboarding process, I received guidance and resources from not just my design team, but PM and eng. I continually receive advice/feedback on my project and I make sure to do the same on my end to my teammates on a daily basis. This is to ensure that everyone is on the same page even though we are working on different parts of the product and that we don’t leave anyone behind.
Here are some best practices I have been incorporating in my project so far. Feel free to suggest new ones in the comments:
- Invite the people you are working with (direct and/or indirect) in meetings that will benefit their work to streamline context and communication. Even if you are busy with work on your end, keep them in the loop as much as possible. I realize that when I don’t involve myself in knowing what my teammates are doing, I have pretty bad tunnel vision in regards to thinking that my point of view is “right” despite not confirming those assumptions, or even when those assumptions are confirmed. I try my best to update the people I am working with information they need to do their work and they do the same with me to ensure that we aren’t working in isolation. This is to constantly keep an open mind, to not jump to conclusions and when I do, have a conversation with my teammates to understand how they came to the result they did.
- Consider what problems other parts of your triad are facing and think about what you can do to help them. A example is when I just started the project I’m currently on, my PM saw my concern with where to start in my project, and suggested I define workflows and research existing products related to what I was building. Also, my other teammates will connect me to people that can provide valuable insight when they notice a part of my process that would really benefit from it.
- Provide resources that you find/see can help others in their work. The engineering team sends me design resources that help me understand what they are trying to communicate with me, and that they think might be helpful in the design.
- Involve your team in the early stages of your design process. This will ensure your team understands why/how you design something and can provide input in how the design can align on their end and vice versa. This to balance user needs and tech capabilities without having to go back and forth. I have been syncing up with eng and/or pm at least once a week to go over design updates and get feedback on my latest designs. Remotely, I share my designs using collaborative tools that allow me to aggregate feedback and provide visual context when explaining my work.
- Create team OKRs to keep track of team efforts. These might differ between design, eng and pm, but can definitely align by being explicit with how to achieve in them in your respective role. I have been using the engineering team’s OKRs surrounding our project as a reference to framing the work I need to achieve, and to become familiar with people who are also striving towards those OKRs.
- Acknowledge people’s successes and positive contributions for progress on projects. I find it fulfilling and motivating when my teammates comment on my progress, whether it be positive feedback or something like “good job”. For me, it’s an indicator that I am going in a good direction and working at a good pace. It’s also a reminder that I have lots of responsibility over what I design and when I provide design direction to my teammates to ensure that we don’t lose sight of our goal. It’s not all about working for yourself but how you can work together with your team to create a good product. So putting aside your ego of designing to impress, but designing for the greater good.
- Be closer to your team! Establish a stronger local bond with them. I am working directly with my eng team so it makes sense to work in proximity of them rather than chat remotely. This is so that it makes communication more fluid and we can get small tasks done faster such as if an engineer wants me to look at something. When you are close to your team, it can be easier to get on them on board with something or if we need to make hard decisions. I haven’t been doing this but this is what I plan to moving forward.
When we isolate ourselves by doing our own work, we don’t see the bigger picture of how we can help others. In reality, it’s not just about our own work, but the fact that everyone is working together towards creating a successful product. This is why the triad model is important to consider because it’s a metaphorical representation of balancing responsibility across multiple roles and sharing ownership equally.