Why Progression, why now?
As a design manager, one thing on your plate at some point will be deciding what 'good' looks like. What defines a senior designer? What qualities go into managerial potential? How can team members tell where they stand?
Doing this in a fair way across a team is hard. It may take weeks of filling in squares in your spreadsheet, getting buy-in from those around you, running it by the team, tweaking to make sure it's actionable. And when you're done, you're left with a tool that still can't track progress, and still looks like a spreadsheet.
Your 1:1 conversation isn't any easier. Goals are hard to set, progress hard to measure. You simplify the framework to ship it, but leave out important detail, which allows for misinterpretation. Gradually it's left on a shelf while you resort to ad-hoc judgement calls on competency and levelling.
Now imagine you're a designer in that team. There's nowhere to look to understand how to improve, and as the team grows new ever more senior job titles appear above you. You're working hard, and 'hustling' but with every step forwards the goalposts move two steps away from you.
Suddenly, a Linkedin message appears. The job title you wanted, with a nice salary bump. Right there for the taking, from the company across the street. Why wouldn't you take it?
We have a hundred tools to move pixels, design interactions, and now increasingly turn our designs into code. But there's still no toolkit for managers.
Spreadsheets aren't good enough. They underserve managers, who in turn underserve their teams. It's a problem that's costing businesses real money (replacing a departing designer costs up to 40% of their salary), and designers their growth. I want us to do better.
If you believe as I do, and want to chat through it with me, please do let me know on email@example.com.
Jonny is the founder of Progression, with over a decade designing and several years of design management at fast growing tech companies. Find him on twitter at @jonnyburch.