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Redesigning leadership: uncover gaps with McKinsey's 7-S framework

During the UX Maturity evaluation, I collected anecdotal feedback from the team about leadership - assessment of me being their lead.

I interviewed my team members. Based on these long and detailed sessions, I collected a thorough understanding of the UX Maturity in the team and organization. I already recognized patterns, issues, and opportunities. Most importantly, each team member shared suggestions on how to proceed.

In similar situations, you may feel immense gratitude and a streak of luck. You have successfully reached land and are ready to go. In my example, I had a lurking understanding of something not yet uncovered. Like gaze detection1, people recognize being stared at. I had gathered plenty of signals yet to be processed and analyzed.

I used McKinsey’s 7-s framework2. Initially, it was a journaling exercise based on my understanding and feelings. The framework’s structure made it quick to distill and describe a conclusive enough summary of the situation. This was one of my most important inspirations to redesign my leadership approach. I understood what needed to be done and realized the priorities for most actions.

Strategy

How will the team match with the organization’s strategy? How should the team evolve to support the organization in competition?

Until then, the UX design team had undergone multiple development cycles, mainly directed by higher management. The organization has a solid customer-centric strategy, which was communicated and executed. The UX team represented the very meaning of this. Still, the connection was vague. We had a feeling of what we were and what we did, which needed to be more consistent and acted upon. That was an important realization – I needed to create and communicate our story.

Style

What’s my instinctual leadership style? How does it serve the team and organization?

My leadership styles were democratic and visionary, which helped me to pull the team together and nurture our culture. Team members felt special and empowered. This approach was slow and made me be perceived as indecisive. I needed to change gears to change the pace without losing the team’s trust and start the transformation process.

Structure

What is the management structure for the team? Who has authority, and who is responsible for what?

At that time, the team was tiny compared to the surrounding product development organization. The management structure for the team was straightforward – I had the authority to make most of the decisions that needed to be confirmed by my manager. I planned and agreed upon projects in collaboration with peers from product development. My reach and capacity were limited as I was managing a growing team. I had become a bottleneck. We needed to redesign leadership and management systems.

Systems

How do you manage your team’s work? What are standards? What is input-process-output?

With several layers of management and structured processes, the UX team’s input was scattered and had a relatively low impact. The only way forward was to integrate the UX team into product development. This transformation had many steps, including setting up project management, prioritizing protocols, and creating a business model for the UX team’s processes.

Skills

What skills and capabilities are in the team and organization? How does it match market trends and the organization’s future needs?

The initial team’s skills and seniority were similar, with several exceptions. The team needed more specialized expertise and capable seniors to mentor others. I need to start planning skills acquisitions. In a way, my democratic leadership style was sabotaging me. I had to guide team members to help them to meet future needs. And I needed to lobby in management about future needs.

Staff

Who are the people in your team? How do they support each other within and outside of the team? How diverse is the team?

The team was growing, and we had many new members. I had plenty of exposure to people interested in joining our team. This gave me a good overview and a benchmark for people’s assumptions, expectations, and levels. At that time, my team only had one role and one level. I needed to update my team’s setup in HR to enable specialization and maturity within the organization.

Shared values

What is your organization aiming to achieve? How do you make your team believe, support, and behave according to your values?

The UX team is customer-centric. We represent the customer’s voice in product development. Still, customer-centricity has limits if it’s only understood, communicated, and owned by UX team members. We needed to co-create and share insights, interpretations, and designs with product development to execute the organization’s strategy.

This journaling exercise was a watershed moment. Even though journaling took little time, structured interviews with team members were crucial to eliminate some of the bias.

I had identified and documented gaps and opportunities for improvement. The goal was to build a sustainable and mature UX team, but how do you get there? For this, I had to learn the rules of the organization.


  1. Psychic staring effect. (2023). In Wikipedia. ↩︎

  2. Bryan, L. & McKinsey. (2008, March 1). Enduring ideas: The 7-s framework. McKinsey Quarterly↩︎