I had the privilege of chatting with Greg Rosenberg (Lead UX Designer/ Manager at Google and incredibly nice human being). I told him I was in the process of joining a new start up as their first product manager. Here is the wisdom he provided on design management and management in general. Note: None of the content below comes directly from Greg (no quotes). This is my recap on our conversation.
Question: If you can’t do extensive user research like Google, should user research be a priority? Will results just be misleading because we don’t have the time or resources to research properly?
Answer: Think of usability testing and user research as power tools. If you can’t do it like Google, do it gorilla style. Go to cafes and offer people coffee. It’s better to have some insights than no insights at all. Just be sure to use those findings to inform your team. Don’t use it as leverage to change the overall product plan in a big way.
Question: I’m new to management. How can I be a good leader/manager for the design and product team?
Answer: Good managers are like linebackers. They create environments where designers can do great design. More junior designers require more feedback. The goal is to get those junior designers to find solutions on their own in the future and to give them tools (if necessary) to do that. Generally, I try to be the best shit umbrella I can be.
Managers should shine because their team shines. Take all the blame and none of the credit.
Your team should never be completely efficient or overloaded. There should always be some slack so designers have space to innovate or change direction.
Question: I have little experience and my team has relatively little product experience. How do I make sure I’m leading them in a good direction if it’s the blind leading the blind?
Answer: If you don’t have experience, learn the space. Compare your designs with your competitors. Also look outside of your space for similar interactions. If you see anything awesome, steal those ideas! Steal steal steal!
Share learnings with your team. Partner with your engineers and keep open communication with your dev team. It’s really really important to get your developers involved from the very beginning to the very end of every build and design.