Stanley Wood of Spotify on Secrets of Design Leadership

(From a 4/3/17 post on, link here.)

Stanley Wood wanted to deeper understanding of how top apps were handling their design culture, so he toured 20 of them

He had learned at Spotify that it’s important to sell the problem before trying to sell a solution—make sure there is demand for a problem before chasing a solution

Stanley wanted to understand 3 main themes:

  1. People. How are orgs organized, both on a functional and mission level. Where does design sit? As a additional function or embedded in dev?
  2. Process. What are their processes optimized for? How to balance between speed and quality?
  3. Tools. What makes their lives easier and better?

With large distributed teams esp, important to have a weekly activity to create the “hive mind”

True innovation seems to require co-located designers and devs. For incremental work it’s not as important

Airbnb is organized around constituents: host and guest. The organise the team against across milestones of the user journey. The lessens the chance of creating features nobody actually wants or needs by staying entirely focused on the customer

But remember, designers like to play with other designers!

Orgs like IMB invest in week-long design on boarding focused on design thinking

Orgs have EPD, engineering, product and design as the core leadership unit

Great orgs invest in reviewing! Prod reviews, strategy reviews, reviews of security and accessibility and UX etc. This is essential to team alignment. It creates a tax on speed but gains in quality and inefficiencies make it worthy

Kim Lenox at LinkedIn: “A framework to work together, a common language, a common rhythm.” They have town halls every 2 weeks to distill values. They are ONE team and invest time in ensuring that

At Salesforce, every list they write is prioritized to keep them disciplined. Even design principles are prioritized, w delivery as #1. Learn to say no to lower priorities

Google’s Material Design is relatively small (30) so their secret sauce is focusing on scaling processes and not headcount. They have a clear POV on how teams should adopt and submit changes to the design system, which limits the need to have teams policing design

Netflix leverages prototyping to quickly reduce the number of hypotheses before moving their best solutions to actual dev work. They have two types of testing, mountain testing A/B testing. The latter focuses on specific changes to the existing UI and impacts. Mountain testing is for drastic changes to the UI

Microsoft does incremental, interactive testing for existing products but also invests in incubating new products to speed up innovation on their product line

Bottom lines: silos bad, collab good. Invest in alignment on what’s important—alignment can replace silos.

Use the office to align the team also!

Airbnb’s meeting rooms are modeled after actual apts on their site, with storyboards that highlight their customer journey

Nike has sports fields, pools etc distributed across their campus and many folks are dressed like athletes, creating empathy

Salesforce has a book that communicates core values and culture. Foursquare’s core principles adorn the elevator banks. Intuit’s reception area has case studies of innovation projects, with photos of the teams involved.

Stanley returned to Spotify and gave a mini-roadshow across EPD, documenting who he spoke with and the facts of their organization around people, process and tools—with NO editorializing. This made the audience more receptive (and probably analytical) but also lead for a request to share his personal perspective on how Spotify should move forward

His first focus is collaboration–more purposeful crits and reviews, plus a dedicated design studio where designers can collab, bringing in remote designers to work towards the “hive mind”




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