We’ve all been there, your yearly review is looming with your manager and you feel somewhat unprepared. You feel that you’ve had a professionally impactful year and you feel quite pleased with what you’ve achieved, but how on earth do you convey all of that? On top of figuring out your strengths, where you’d like to grow, and what goals you’d like to set and achieve by next year?

At Novoda, Lydia and Anna developed a new framework and tested out the methods during the 121's with the design team. We wanted to create a process that was interactive, asynchronous, and rewarding. It needed to be both beneficial to our direct reports as it is for us as managers, to allow everyone to get the most value out of the time we spend together. We wanted the process to be agile and iterative as we grew and adapted to the dynamics of the design team.

Most importantly, we envisioned something that could be used regularly - not just every 6 months - and with enough flexibility it could adapt to different individuals and their needs. At Novoda, we have a culture focusing on learning and curiosity and it seemed important to enable that at a self reflection level too.

We created a flexible framework that can be adapted to different personalities and needs. It is an organic tool you can regularly re-visit and re-adapt together over time, out of the official performance review time. It is more casual, less formal and therefore easier to use.

If you manage a team, we highly encourage you to run through this process yourself before speaking to your reports about it. It will help you to build empathy and a deeper understanding of the tasks, while you support and guide others. It helps to tailor your approach and understand your direct reports better - what motivates them, what could be challenging. It will highlight patterns based on their previous experience, current role and ambitions and, as a result, allow you to more effectively advise them both on the long run and within the realm of day to day support.

Having a career progression framework can help to make sure you can both support and guide everyone sensibly at a personal and professional level while also reaching alignment with the team/organisation's growth strategy. It provides a better understanding of the team dynamics and allows you to identify personal preferences, needs and motivators as well as opportunities for people to pair and mentor each other.

Self-Assessment Activities

This self assessment framework focuses on the person's past, present and future as well as their expectations. It helps to actively define and work towards their desired path as a designer, within their present role, team and organisation, and in general. Flexible and adaptive, it is designed to evolve with time and to be personalised.

The self assessment can give a better overview of individual progression. Additionally, it unveils tangible opportunities for their manager and organisation to support their and the team's growth (e.g.who could help/mentor, what can be done short and long term, what opportunities are present to support, what initiatives could be started, etc…). It can be a way to assess against the organisation's benchmark in place and expectations for their role.
There are a few impactful activities that you can do to build up your self awareness and to have more meaningful conversations with your manager:

Career Timeline: Highlights and Lowlights

Aastha Gaur's article "The First Career Conversation" as well as Jason Mesut's "Shaping Design and Designers" series directly inspired us to start our framework with a career timeline exercise. This introspective approach is a great tool to enable self-reflection in a tangible way and we recommend everyone to take the time to do it for themselves, regardless if you plan or not to try the self-assessment framework for you and your team. By focusing on their past career, people can easily identify what occurrences were positive or negative and use this information to inform future steps and better articulate their needs and expectations.

To make informed choices about what you need to be happy and successful in your career it’s useful to reflect on your highlights and lowlights. Highlighting the emotional highs and the lows during your various jobs and employers and marking out events or themes that explain some of the peaks and troughs.

Radar Chart: Skills mapping

A radar chart is a method of displaying data represented on axes starting from the same point. It looks similar to a spiderweb. Plotting your confidence in your skills on a chart allows you to visually compare your skills, and to see which areas you are excelling at. This approach is great to adapt for each team depending on the skill sets that are required.
Overtime you can compare charts from each review and see how your chart is developing and changing, this will show which areas you are the strongest in which is important to identify as you tend to grow skills where you are already have a natural strength or capability in due to your experience, interests, working style or personality.

Reverse Goal Setting

Instead of working out what you want to achieve, try to write down all the things you don’t want to happen and then focus on the areas you have control of and turn them into goals. This approach is a great way to set more achievable goals that are precise and contextual, it also is a great way to create goals in order to mitigate risk.

For example, “I don’t want to make products that people struggle to use”.
Your goals could be:

  • Get feedback from users once a month on my prototypes before implementation.
  • Share my ideas and prototypes with my colleagues to get feedback on usability.
  • Integrate usability specific analytics to be able to track how the product is being used post release.

Once you have a selection of goals, it’s good practice to turn them into SMART goals. This is a five step process to build a concise measurable goal that allows you to understand what needs to be accomplished, when, and how you know when you've been successful. This makes it easier to create more achievable goals and track your process.

For each of your goals check that they are...

Specific - What objective needs to be accomplished?
Measureable - What are the trackable benchmarks?
Achievable - Is your goal within reach?
Relevant - Does the goal matter to your organisation?
Time-bound - What is the designated time-frame?

Test it out

Following the success of this self assessment, all the designers within our team now have their own miro board with the self assessment tasks that they can use anytime. We’ve also rolled it out to the engineering team, who are also reaping the benefits of having a structured framework.

If you would like to try it with your team you can find the Self Assessment Miro template on Miroverse. Once you’ve run through these tasks, personally and with your direct reports you’ll both be in a more self aware mindset and will find it easier to talk about what you want from your career. Reviews will become easier, and you’ll feel more confident and will have fewer barriers when asking for what you need and want.

Go Further
Do not hesitate to try other exercises and/or adapt the examples listed in this article to your team and organisation's specific needs.

This overview of all the exercises used in the Shaping Designers & Design Teams series from Jason Mesut is a great resource to find detailed instructions and valuable content around self reflection and career progression.

We would love to hear how you personalised your framework and used the exercises!

Join the team

If you want to be part of a team that deeply cares about your own career progression and you want to take part in defining and iterating our existing frameworks, we are looking to grow our team.

We are looking for strong individual contributors with the appetite to develop strategic design methodologies, and to build your design leadership confidence to make insightful decisions for the product team and our clients.

Product Design Lead - Novoda
Novoda is looking for an experienced Product Design Lead to join the product design team. In this role you will be demonstrating your skills as a team leader and own design delivery and strategy across a team of designers. This role would suit someone ...