Handbook for design leaders

This handbook for design leaders shares our expertise in developing team capabilities that increase the value, impact, and performance of designing. We regularly update the content in response to new insights and experiences. Please e-mail us with questions, remarks, or suggestions.




  1. Describe the design services in your design practice and analyze their situation
  2. Describe your challenges in providing leading design
  3. Describe your ambitions to increase the value, impact, or performance of designing


For each design service, analyze its current situation



For each design service, describe applicable challenges:

  • Design service:
    • Designing
    • Marketing
    • Improving
  • Design team:
    • Building
    • Evaluating
    • Advancing


For each challenge, describe:

  • A future state of the design service, in terms of one or more measurable performance indicators concerning:
    • Scope
    • Quality
    • Benefits
    • Time
    • Cost
    • Risk
  • Attributions of the future state, i.e., is it:
    • Desirable
    • Feasible
    • Viable




  1. Deliver a service
  2. Study execution data
  3. Process obtained insights

Deliver a service


For each ambition, describe:

  • Current performance of the design service
  • The competitive position of the design service
  • Barriers to fulfilling the ambition
  • Root causes of barriers
  • Prognoses of root causes

Competitive position

Describe the competitive position of the design service in terms of the outcomes of a SWOT analysis:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats


For each challenge, describe one or more barriers to overcoming the challenge, formulated in terms of capabilities that relate to:

  • Strategy
  • Structure
  • System
  • Specialisms
  • Skills
  • Shared values

Root cause

For each capability that forms a barrier, describe:

  • The significance of the capability, in terms of the outcomes of a VRIO analysis:
    • Valuable
    • Rare
    • Inimitable
    • Organized to capture (or, exploit) value
  • The lifecycle stage of the capability:
    • Ideation
    • Conception
    • Development
    • Production
    • Use
    • Retirement
  • The origin of the capability:
    • Learned
    • Invented
    • Innate
  • The nature of the capability:
    • Explicit
    • Implicit
    • Tacit


For each root cause, give a prognosis of its development without intervention and after an intervention:

  • Unfavorable
  • Guarded
  • Favorable


For each root cause to be remedied, describe:

  • A solution concept to develop the capability involved according to a particular change strategy:
    • Invention
    • Improvement
    • Expansion
    • Adaptation
    • Innovation
    • Transformation
  • An elaborated solution:
    • Planned interventions
    • Estimates of required investments
    • Expected effects on fulfilling the ambition

Examples of solution concepts:

Designing a service

Designing a design service

Define a portfolio strategy, identify gaps and unmet or latent needs, and define segments for customers and users — McKinsey Design

Explore user experiences, discover user motives, and define user requirements — Interaction Design Foundation

Sell design services

Marketing a design service

Represent design at the top level of the organization, improve employee experience with design, and spread design practices — McKinsey Design

Determine the need to change, identify the willingness to change, and assess the ability to change — BCG

Improving a design service

Turbocharge design processes, speed up internal feedback loops, and improve handoffs — Invision Inside Design

Recognize and remove overly complex content, organize knowledge, and filter content — UX Collective

Organize design

Building a design team

Build up your reputation, spot talent through your network, and establish a flexible talent pipeline — Workable

Form cross-disciplinary design teams, further knowledge integration, and implement decision-making through consensus — Purdue University

Measure strength

Evaluating a design team

Define quantified design metrics, build a holistic metrics system, and define supporting operational metrics — McKinsey Design

Describe design work in terms of business goals, collect evidence of design results, and communicate the business value of design — BoagWorld

Promote learning

Advancing a design team

Demonstrate desired behaviours, provide motivators, and recognize and acknowledge displayed behaviours — PositivePsychology

Set goals, determine ground rules, and provide facilities to produce design knowledgeUNStudio


Given an approved plan to remedy the root causes of barriers, report:

  • Milestone deliveries
  • Return on investments
  • Degree of fulfilling the ambition

Second opinion

Given third-party advice, give:

  • An assessment
  • An advice
  • A comparison of own advice with third-party advice


Given an ambition, present:

  • An overview of problems in fulfilling the ambition
  • Proposals on how to solve the problems
  • Results of executing an approved proposal


Given an ambition:

  • Steer fulfillment of the ambition
  • Organize fulfillment of the ambition
  • Facilitate fulfillment of the ambition

Study execution data



  • Produce an execution log
  • Assess the quality of execution in terms of:
    • Efficacy
    • Efficiency
    • Experience

Process obtained insights



  • Discover, capture and share new knowledge on developing team capabilities that increase the value, impact, and performance of designing
  • Draw lessons from the execution




  1. Draw conclusions
  2. Prepare recommendations on the next steps
  3. Present end results

Posted articles


How to determine objectives

Designers who develop more knowledge generally perform better as well. This post describes how to determine objectives for the development of design knowledge based on the significance of this knowledge.
Sorts of design knowledge

Sorts of design knowledge

Design is indispensable in a rapidly changing world where clients need to catch up, keep up, and move up. This post describes seven sorts of design knowledge that determine design performance.