Handbook

In this handbook for design leaders, we share our expertise in building a thriving design practice and making design a strategic advantage. We regularly update the content of this handbook. Please e-mail us if you have any questions, remarks, or suggestions.

Handbook
Handbook

Handbook part I: Way of working

The first part of this handbook describes steps to build a thriving design practice and make design a strategic advantage. Each step consists of three subsequent activities:

  1. Prepare the step: define and analyze your ambition.
  2. Execute the step: deliver a service to fulfil your ambition.
  3. Complete the step: evaluate advances in fulfilling your ambition.

You only need to prepare the first step in a continuing series of steps.

Prepare the step

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Overview

Define and analyze your ambition:

  1. Briefly introduce each design service that you want to upgrade and describe its situation.
  2. For each design service that you want to upgrade, formulate your ambition.
  3. Explore some global possibilities to fulfill your ambition.
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Service

Briefly introduce each design service that you want to upgrade:

  1. Give the name of the service.
  2. Indicate the kind of design object (if not clear from the name).
  3. Describe any specifics of the service.
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Situation

Analyse the situation of each design service that you want to upgrade:

  1. Describe the design and operation of the service.
  2. Analyse the critical success factors of the service (according to a SWOT analysis).
    • Strengths
    • Weaknesses
    • Opportunities
    • Threats
  3. Indicate the current position of the service (according to a VRIO analysis):
    • Valuable
    • Rare
    • Inimitable
    • Organized
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Ambition

For each design service that you want to upgrade, formulate your ambition:

  1. Indicate the kind of advantage that you want to achieve.
    • Valuable
    • Rare
    • Inimitable
    • Organized
  2. Define at least one and preferably three balanced indicators to measure the advantage that you want to achieve.
  3. For each indicator, give a target value range and the current value.
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Possibilities

Explore some global possibilities to fulfil your ambition:

  1. Identify global ways to develop practice capabilities that will fulfil your ambition.
  2. Describe what has been or is being done and why this has not (yet) led to fulfilling your ambition.
  3. Analyse whether your ambition is worth pursuing.
    • Desirable
    • Feasible
    • Viable

Execute the step

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Overview

Deliver a service to fulfil your ambition:

  1. Perform a service.
    • Assessment
    • Advisement
    • Realization
    • Second opinion
    • Troubleshooting
    • Management
  2. Study the results.
  3. Process obtained insights.

Perform a service

Assessment

Assessment

Outline, rank, and assess competencies to fulfil your ambition (in line with the McKinsey capabilities strategy):

  1. Frame the situation: outline required competencies to fulfil your ambition.
  2. Fill out expectations: rank competencies on their strategic importance.
  3. Formulate the problem: assess each competency for its maturity to fulfil your ambition.

Framing the situation

Frame

Outline required competencies to fulfil your ambition.

  • Explicit competencies
  • Implicit competencies
  • Tacit competencies
Filling out expectations

Expectations

Rank competencies on their strategic importance, in terms of the degree of alignment with your organization’s core values.

  • Brand values
  • Customer values
  • Acting principles
  • Ethical principles
Formulating the problem

Problem

Assess each competency for its maturity to fulfil your ambition:

  1. Formulate an open question about fulfilling your ambition with this competency (“How can …?”).
  2. Indicate any issue in answering the question.
  3. For each issue, give an expected outlook of its progression.
    • Favourable
    • Guarded
    • Unfavourable

Advisement

Advisement

Nominate competencies and propose capabilities to fulfil your ambition (in line with the McKinsey capabilities strategy):

  1. Devise a concept: plan competencies and name capabilities to fulfil your ambition.
  2. Develop a solution: figure out how to use planned competencies to grow named capabilities.
  3. Deliver specifications: specify how to grow named capabilities and make them part of your design practice’s DNA.

Devising a concept

Concept

Plan competencies and name capabilities to fulfil your ambition:

  1. Map competencies on the basis of their strategic importance and maturity.
  2. For each competency, determine an objective to develop it.
    • Accommodate (abandoning any competencies that are not valuable anymore)
    • Refine (if not rare)
    • Integrate (if imitable)
    • Support (if not organized)
    • Maintain (otherwise)
  3. Propose capabilities grown out of planned competencies to fulfil your ambition.
Developing a solution

Solution

Figure out how to use planned competencies to grow proposed capabilities (using SCAMPER).

  • Substitute
  • Combine
  • Adapt
  • Modify
  • Put to other uses
  • Eliminate
  • Reorganize
Delivering specifications

Specifi­cations

Specify how to grow proposed capabilities and make them part of your design practice’s DNA (in line with the McKinsey 7S framework).

  • Strategy
  • Structure
  • System (or, Systems and Style)
  • Specialisms
  • Skills
  • Shared values

Realization

Realization

Realize and evaluate capabilities to fulfil your ambition:

  1. Execute the plan to grow practice capabilities.
  2. Track the progress and results of executing the plan.
  3. Evaluate practice capabilities.
Second opinion

Second opinion

Compare the results of assessment and advisement with the given advice:

  1. Make an assessment.
  2. Draw up an advice.
  3. Compare own advice with the given advice.
Troubleshooting

Trouble­shooting

Resolve setbacks in realization:

  1. Analyze setbacks in realization.
  2. Make a proposal to resolve the setbacks.
  3. Execute a proposal after approval.
Management

Management

Arrange fulfilment of your ambition.

  • Steer
  • Organize
  • Operate

Study service execution

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Analysis

Analyze the execution of a service:

  1. Examine the execution log.
  2. Assess the quality of the execution.
    • Efficacy
    • Efficiency
    • Experience
  3. Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the execution.

Process obtained insights

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Synthesis

Make sure to capture obtained insights on how to build a thriving design practice and make design a strategic advantage.

  • Describe
  • Depict
  • Demonstrate

Complete the step

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Overview

Evaluate advances in fulfilling your ambition:

  1. Draw conclusions about the results.
  2. Prepare recommendations on the next steps.
  3. Present the main points.

Handbook part II: Library

The second part of this handbook describes practical problems and concepts to build a thriving design practice and make design a strategic advantage. They originate from scientific and professional literature and practical experience. This non-exhaustive overview will be updated from time to time.

business success

Formulating the problem

Problem

How can my design team create business value?

Devising a concept

Concept

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

Formulating the problem

Problem

How can my design team gain business impact?

Devising a concept

Concept

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

Formulating the problem

Problem

How can my design team increase business performance?

Devising a concept

Concept

Combine scale with agility to grow — David Butler & Linda Tischler

Team success

Formulating the problem

Problem

How can my design team prove its value?

Devising a concept

Concept

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

Formulating the problem

Problem

How can my design team gain impact?

Devising a concept

Concept

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

Formulating the problem

Problem

How can my design team improve its performance?

Devising a concept

Concept

Turbocharge 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

Set goals, determine ground rules, and provide facilities to acquire, create, and share knowledgeUNStudio

Team development

Formulating the problem

Problem

How can I build my design team?

Devising a concept

Concept

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

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

Formulating the problem

Problem

How can I evaluate my design team?

Devising a concept

Concept

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

Formulating the problem

Problem

How can I advance my design team?

Devising a concept

Concept

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

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

Handbook part III: Posted articles

The third part of this handbook lists a number of links to posts with supporting expertise and background knowledge.

Sorts of design knowledge

7 sorts of design knowledge to accomplish design work

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

Annex to handbook: Terms

See definitions for an explanation of the terms used in this handbook.