Now available for pre-order: Managing Priorities by Harry Max

Frequently Asked Questions

These common questions and their short answers are taken from Chris Avore and Russ Ungers’ book Liftoff!: Practical Design Leadership to Elevate Your Team, Your Organization, and You. You can find longer answers to each in your copy of the book, either printed or digital version.

  1. Is this a how-to book?
    Of course not! And, well, maybe. We’ve included a lot of what we’ve learned based on our own personal experiences and our collabora- tion with each other—and others—which we view as a framework to help you on your way. You certainly might be able to take what we’ve written and apply it as-is, especially when it comes to the hiring pro- cess (see Chapters 3–7). There’s step-by-step instructions to facilitate a design charter workshop (Chapter 8). And Chapter 15 includes specific ways to tweak generally-used user experience design activities to include executive leaders, which may elevate your influence in the company. But there are also a lot of tips, stories, and experiences in this book that aren’t necessarily meant to be applied directly. Instead, use them to build your own foundation for how you make decisions relevant to your situation and environment.
  2. Why did you include a chapter on designing diversity and inclusion into teams?
    A diverse team where individuals can be their full selves in a psychologically safe, inclusive environment will be better prepared to design solutions to ambiguous, complex problems (see Chapter 2). We promote diverse teams working together in an inclusive environ- ment throughout the entire book, not just in one chapter. By the end of the book, we hope audiences will feel more prepared and comfort- able committing to intentionally building and supporting diverse, inclusive teams.
  3. Are you using management and leadership interchangeably?
    Usually, until we don’t. Management and leadership are not synonyms, yet in many cases the two terms represent similar means to similar ends. In Chapter 1, we provide a breakdown of the differences between a design leader and a design manager. Throughout the book, we use design manager intentionally to refer to the person responsible for managing their teams of direct reports, and ultimately the people who report to them. Think org charts, hierarchy, and bosses.We often will use design leader when we’re referring to anyone in the organization who identifies as a designer and is trying to improve their team, their team’s delivery, or their workplace, whether or not they have official management responsibility.
  4. Does the world really need another management book?
    We’re familiar with the litany of books about management and leadership—some of which have helped shape the views we share here. Many recent management books have focused on managing technical teams or software development teams. However, there are far fewer books that can help new or experienced design managers with both short-term and longer term paths to improve their design practice. For instance, design leaders can likely see positive short-term results by trying the ideas in Chapter 10 on critique and Chapter 11, which focuses on presenting work. But we also cover complex topics that may take months to see organizational change, such as Chapter 14 on scaling design and Chapter 15 on influencing cross-functional partners and senior leaders.
  5. Why did you write so many chapters on the hiring process?
    A good, solid hiring process (Chapter 3) is truly at the foundation of how a team works. Hiring includes thoughtful descriptions of the types of work to be done and what success looks like in a role (Chapter 4), well-defined and consistent interviewing practices (Chapters 5 and 6), and a thorough onboarding process (Chapter 7). It’s easy to focus on only one aspect of the hiring process; however, we see the pieces as interconnected and extremely important to be aware of. A strong hiring process shows candidates what it’s like to work on your team at your organization, and everyone should strive to put their best foot forward.
  6. What’s up with a whole chapter on saying no?
    Chapter 12 reinforces what many of us already know well: saying no is rarely easy in the workplace. We investigate power and social dynamics, risks of telling the boss no, and ways to help make saying no a little easier. We even share advice on planning (and cleaning up after) birthday parties!

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