Are you looking for how to build capacity for design yourself? This handbook for design leaders explains how to apply our approach ICA/RUS. We regularly update the content of this handbook.

E-mail us if you have any questions, remarks, or suggestions.

Handbook 1

Phases and steps

When applying ICA/RUS, you go through three phases:

  1. Preparation
  2. Execution
  3. Completion

Preparation phase

To prepare for the execution of ICA/RUS, you define and analyse your ambition:

  1. Analyse the situation of your design activity.
  2. State your ambition to build capacity for design.
  3. Estimate whether your ambition can be realized.


Analyse the situation of your design activity:

  1. Describe the organization of your design activity.
    • Design: what is the plan?
    • Existence: is the plan in execution?
    • Operation: is the execution according to the plan?
  2. Analyse environmental factors for your design activity.
    • Macro-environmental factors (according to a PESTEL analysis)
      • Political factors
      • Economic factors
      • Social factors
      • Technological factors
      • Environmental factors
      • Legal factors
    • Meso-environmental factors (according to a five-forces analysis)
      • Threat of new entrants
      • Threat of substitutes
      • Bargaining power of customers
      • Bargaining power of suppliers
      • Competitive rivalry
    • Micro-environmental factors (according to a SWOT analysis)
      • Strengths (i.e., characteristics that entail an advantage)
      • Weaknesses (i.e., characteristics that entail a disadvantage)
      • Opportunities (i.e., elements in the environment that could entail an advantage)
      • Threats (i.e., elements in the environment that could entail a disadvantage)
  3. Indicate what you need to build capacity for design.
    • Insights
    • Know-how
    • Time


State your ambition to build capacity for design:

  1. Indicate your goal of building capacity for design.
    • Develop a powerful team
    • Drive creativity and innovation
    • Deliver exceptional experiences
  2. Define indicators for outcomes of your design activity to measure the achievement of your goal.
    • Value
      • Economic value
      • Environmental value
      • Social value
    • Impact
      • Leads
      • Customers
      • Ambassadors
    • Performance
      • Scope
      • Quality
      • Benefit
      • Time
      • Cost
      • Risk
  3. Determine a target value range and the current value for each indicator.
    • Minimum
    • Optimum
    • Maximum


Estimate whether your ambition can be realized:

  1. Analyse any earlier initiatives to fulfil your ambition.
  2. Check the availability of required resources for your new initiative.
    • Personnel
    • Documentation
    • Data points
  3. Analyse whether your ambition is worth pursuing.
    • Desirable
    • Feasible
    • Viable

Execution phase

To execute ICA/RUS, you follow six steps:

  1. Identify critical capabilities
  2. Compare critical capabilities
  3. Appraise critical capabilities
  1. Refine critical capabilities
  2. Unite critical capabilities
  3. Secure critical capabilities


Using the service quality gap model, identify capabilities that are critical to fulfilling your ambition.

Handbook 2
  • Capabilities to consult involved parties
    • Commissioners
    • Customers
    • Users
    • Subject matter experts
    • Contractors
    • Managers
  • Capabilities to coordinate goals
    • Objectives to achieve
    • Policies to follow
    • Values to fulfil
  • Capabilities to create
    • Research the market
      • Define research questions
      • Develop a research plan
      • Execute research
        • Collect data
        • List findings
        • Draw conclusions
    • Define a value proposition
      • Customer profile
        • Customer jobs
        • Customer gains
        • Customer pains
      • Value promise
        • Product (i.e., a design service)
        • Gain creators
        • Pain relievers
    • Develop a service
      • Build
        • Coordinate building
        • Specify expectations [of]
        • Fulfil expectations [of]
      • Measure
        • Define metrics [for]
        • Build a metrics system [for]
        • Collect data points [of]
      • Learn
        • Compare expectations and experiences [of]
        • Understand differences between expectations and experiences [of]
        • Update beliefs [about]
    • Promote a service
      • Draw attention [to]
      • Raise interest [for]
      • Ignite desire [for]
      • Call for action [regarding]
    • Deliver a service
      • Coordinate designing
        • Determine a design strategy
        • Execute a design strategy
        • Evaluate a design strategy
      • Specify design requirements
        • Frame the situation
        • Fill out expectations
        • Formulate a problem
      • Fulfil design requirements
        • Devise a concept
        • Develop a solution
        • Deliver specifications

If necessary, you can further analyse each of these capabilities using a model of purposeful action developed by Donald Norman (2002); see the figure below.

Handbook 3

Finally, characterize each critical capability as follows:

  • Explicit (i.e., articulated)
  • Implicit (i.e., not articulated, but articulable)
  • Tacit (i.e., neither articulated nor articulable)


Rank critical capabilities on their expected contributions to organizational aspects.

  • Reputation
  • Organization strategy
  • Stakeholder needs
  • Technology
  • Ethical conduct
  • Regulatory


Assess each critical capability on the presence of competency in your team.

  • Absence (i.e., no team member is competent in it)
  • Individual presence (i.e., a single team member is competent in it)
  • Group presence (i.e., some but not all team members are competent in it)
  • Organizational presence (i.e., all team members are competent in it)


Using SCAMPER, refine critical capabilities to make them rare.

  • Substitute
  • Combine
  • Adjust
  • Modify
  • Put to another use
  • Eliminate
  • Reverse


Integrate refined capabilities to make them inimitable.

  • Connect (with other capabilities)
  • Embed (among other capabilities)
  • Immerse (mixed with other capabilities)


Support and maintain unique capabilities in your team by anchoring them in its organization design (in line with the McKinsey 7S framework).

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

Consult Shadbolt & Smart (2015) for methods, techniques, and tools to capture knowledge.

Completion phase

To complete the execution of ICA/RUS, you evaluate advances in fulfilling your ambition:

  1. Draw conclusions about the outcomes.
  2. Prepare recommendations on the next steps.
  3. Report the main results of fulfilling your ambition.

Concept solutions for practical problems

Below you will find a few concept solutions for practical problems in fulfilling your ambition. They originate from scientific and professional literature and practical experience. From time to time, we will update this non-exhaustive overview.

Develop a powerful team


How can I add value as a design leader?

Concept solution

Translate the corporate vision into tangible goals, center the customer, foster collaboration, and uphold operational excellence—all while expanding creative limits — Aquent


How can I build my team?

Concept solution

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


How can I advance my team?

Concept solution

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

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

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


How can my team gain impact?

Concept solution

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


How can I evaluate the strength of my team?

Concept solution

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

Deliver exceptional experiences


How can my team grow the impact of design?

Concept solution

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


How can my team grow the value of design?

Concept solution

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


How can my team prove its value?

Concept solution

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


How can my team grow the performance of design?

Concept solution

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


How can my team drive performance?

Concept solution

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

Background information

ICA/RUS is loosely based on McKinsey’s capabilities strategy for successful product development (2017). See definitions for an explanation of the terms used in this handbook. Below, you will find links to publications of supporting expertise and background knowledge.