Using Roleplay to Prepare Design Managers

Practice makes perfect, but how do you help your team practice difficult conversations? Senongo Akpem shows how roleplay can help new managers learn useful techniques and gain confidence for those tough discussions ahead.

“Buy Him A Coffee”

Doing effective work often depends on the cooperation of colleages. Many of us struggle with this aspect of our jobs. Our very reasonable explanations fall on deaf ears. We’re not charismatic or extroverted, and people tune us out. We’re good at what we do, but we’re not “born leaders.” Actually, it’s not arcane knowledge or inborn talent that gives you the ability to win friends and influence people. Nishant Kothary realized that being influential is a skill that you can (and should) develop.

The Art of Creating Accurate Estimates

If you make a living in client services, you know how daunting the estimating process can be. Somehow, you have to predict how much time and work will go into completing a client’s project before it even begins. Clients have to trust your estimates in order to commit funds to a project. You have to trust your estimates in order to commit to the next project on your schedule. Matt Griffin shares some tips to make estimating a bit more methodical and a bit less fraught.

80/20 Practitioners Make Better Communicators

Approaches that are either too general or too specific can easily overwhelm practitioners—and derail budgets. Fresh from recent experiences with two large-scale redesigns, Katie Kovalcin suggests that flexibility and open communication can transform all team members into what she calls “80/20 practitioners,” creating a more effective balance of time and resources.

There Is No Data vs. Intuition

Heads/Tails, Left/Right, Church/State, Engineering/Design, Logic/Emotion. Oh wait—the flipside of logic isn’t emotion. It’s fallacy. Another fallacy is feeling obliged to join either the faction of the sensibly-clad engineers or the faction of the crayon-toting creatives. Nishant Kothary has found that research is on the side of trusting your gut (then backing up your instinct with testing).

Managing and Making: It Doesn’t Have to Be One or the Other

We take it for granted that career progress means moving into a management role. Even people who thrive in the individual contributor role feel the pressure to join management. Shouldn’t both capacities be valued, so we can find where we genuinely fit in and do our best work? Rian van der Merwe has gone scouting up the career path and realized it’s okay to turn back and be the other, oft-overlooked but equally important half of the management/making dynamic.

The Specialist-Generalist Balance

Specialists? Generalists? It’s not a question of which is better, but about finding the right mix for your team and your work. Specialists offer valuable expertise, but over-reliance on specialization isn’t always good for workflow—too many niches can lead to silos, bottlenecks, and poor communication. Garin Evans recommends that, instead, we build teams that play off the best traits of specialists and generalists, encouraging collaboration and innovation as we go.

The People are the Work

You take pride in your creativity and brilliant work, but the web is a place of transience. Businesses evolve, client needs change, sites are outgrown, and it’s time to start building again. Can you be content with the work of presenting content on the web? For an approach to creating something that stands the test of time, Matt Griffin and the Bearded crew took to heart an old adage in a surprisingly new way.

Logically Speaking

The human mind has its own logic far beyond the binary states of mere computers. Even in the tech industry, you can’t escape the reality that it takes more than data and solid conclusions to win people over.

The Implicit Contract

Working with a team of like-minded folks not only makes for more copacetic daily interactions, it actually has a positive effect on the end product. Developers are valued for more than their technical skills. Another hallmark of a good developer is how well they mesh with a team.