Clearleft has been working on a professional development framework to share with the UX Design community. Here’s how, and why, we’ve arrived at something we hope is potentially valuable to your design team.
With all this in mind, we've been busy mulling and musing over how we can codify what it means to progress at Clearleft.
Measuring what counts
The first challenge of any measurement framework is ensuring there is a focus on what is meaningful. As Drucker (may or may not have) said “What gets measured gets done”. Essentially as we were aware that a measurement framework would have an impact on behaviour, encouraging the right behaviours and discouraging the wrong ones would be critical.
Clearleft is a place where collective values and behaviours are intrinsic to our way of working and continued success as a design studio. And moreso than any other company I’ve worked for or with, IMHO. When deciding on what to measure, and indeed what to ignore, we therefore felt it important to find a way to wrap up an expression of our values into the framework.
- Make it great over good
- Don’t go it alone
- Own it
- Be fleet of foot
- Speak your mind
- Learn, share
- Feed your curiosity
- Work to live, love to work
On investigation, a number of overarching themes within these values felt appropriate to measure as core skills, namely Communication, Problem solving, and Empathy.
Participate and facilitate collaborative group activities and/or workshops with colleagues or clients.
PresentationSpeak publicly or present to an audience articulately and persuasively.
FeedbackOpen to seek, receive and give constructive feedback on your work or the work of others.
Pro-actively own and be accountable for solving problems under your own initiative.
MethodologyUnderstand, apply and adapt your approach to problem solving.
PlanningShape, coordinate and lead activities on project work with colleagues and clients.
Build strong relationships with colleagues and clients.
Support & RecognitionSupport colleagues when they need help, and outwardly recognise the hard work of others.
Human-centricityAdvocate for a shared understanding of the needs and concerns of users, customers or audiences.
With these core skills serving as the foundations, we were then readily able to identify a suite of specialist skills across the themes of Strategy, Design and Leadership.
Understand and articulate a clients mission, goals and desired outcomes, analyse their domain, and inform the vision and strategic direction of their products or services.
Diagnose project challenges and opportunities through evidence-based investigation and research.
Map the architecture of the user experience.
Create, adapt or interpret brand guidelines and translate them into tangible artefacts and experiences.
Explore, iterate and improve on a broad range of ideas and potential design solutions.
Produce elegant, usable and responsive user interfaces and user experiences within known technology constraints.
Validate design concepts and solutions with end-users and/or business stakeholders to measure the impact of design.
Lead or manage others to do better work and shape the strategic direction of the organisation.
Support the ongoing professional development and growth of colleagues.
Coach and train others to learn new skills, techniques and ways of working.
Right now, this framework is well suited to UX, Research and Design professionals, but we aim to build on it to better reflect a wider variety of disciplines, such as Content, Development, Project & Product Management, and Events.
Each of the 19 skills are measured on a five point proficiency scale: Beginner, Novice, Intermediate, Expert, Master. The proficiency scale is intended to mirror the likely capability of a population along the lines of a bell curve distribution, with Beginner level typically reflecting a minimum benchmark for graduates or interns, and Mastery being the culmination of many years of hard work or serving as an aspirational, often career-defining, pinnacle of achievement. Most people will exist within the Novice to Expert proficiencies, which are intended to map neatly to obviously recognisable stages of any given career or skillset: from Junior through to Senior.
The ambition is to have a universal framework that recognises and expresses the breadth of capability, both individually and across the company. Given the diffusion of skills amongst digital professionals, we’re acutely aware of the risks of putting individuals into explicitly narrow, pre-defined categories that can ultimately harm growth and professional development. As such we’re consciously trying not to design a system that stifles the unique attributes of any individual member.
With 19 measurable categories so far we believe there’s enough flexibility to avoid this. However we’re also mindful to introduce clarity around which roles and seniorities demand which subset of these skills and proficiency levels as essential prerequisites for promotion and salary compensation. Clearly this is a fine balancing act, but one we’re currently in the process of developing and refining further, along with a means by which to measure and evidence the criteria for progression in a more tangible way, that doesn’t inadvertently encourage gaming the system.
The Trello format is an unglamorous and occasionally cumbersome one, but for now is one well-suited to our tool agnosticism and the relative informality and conversational nature of how we manage performance and line management at Clearleft. Each individuals unique and private Professional Development board is fed from a root source of Skill & Proficiency definitions that exist on a shared board. This is something we’ll be looking to develop into more useful, easily communicable visualisations (e.g. Radar Charts), via a more robust and sustainable platform in the coming iterations of the framework. So watch this space.