Quick daily check-ins help us stay connected and share ideas as we work across different projects.
- We use Teams for automated daily and weekly check-ins.
- Try to respond in a timely manner (especially the daily ones), so others have time to see responses before heading out for the day.
- Include links to work in progress as much as possible. This gives everyone a sense of what others are working on.
Design requires time to think and make things. Set some reasonable boundaries to encourage this.
- True emergencies are rare. Do not feel obligated to respond immediately to every request on every communication channel. (And don’t expect immediate responses from others.)
- These are some suggestions for setting reasonable boundaries. They are only suggestions:
- Set regular times for checking email and chat channels and communicate this to your project teams so they know what to expect. (Disable or quit incoming notifications outside of these time to avoid distractions.)
- To avoid too much conversation happening in email, try to keep emails to 5 sentences or less. When appropriate, link to a shared document, prototype, or other artifact and have conversation around that.
- We have the concept of “flex time” at Bixal, which means we don’t all have to work during the same core hours. That said, you are not expected to be “always on,” working and communicating outside of whatever your “normal business hours” are. (See the Bixal Employee Handbook for more on flex time.)
- Unless it’s really your thing, try to avoid the sad desk lunch.
- Ignore presence status indicators. (When you’re not expecting an immediate response, they don’t matter anyway.)
It takes two to make a thing go right…
By establishing a rotation of collaboration pairs, we can better leverage the spectrum of knowledge and experience across the team to support each other in project work and general practice growth.
The goal is that periodic sharing and feedback between pairs will enable a deeper understanding of each other’s project contexts and lead to more meaningful and actionable feedback.
Timing & Scheduling
- Duos are encouraged to meet weekly, for between 30 and 60 minutes.
- Duos should coordinate their own schedules.
- Duos can decide whether to each share their work in the same session or alternate sessions.
- You should bill time to the project you’re sharing work for, even when you’re providing feedback on the other person’s work.
- If the work you’re sharing is outside of a billable project, you can bill to “1. Design Research and Training” in BIXAL DESIGN.TEAM.
- The plan is to rotate duos about quarterly.
Feedback Format & Guidance
The format of these collaboration sessions can be left open, but here are some things to include when seeking feedback:
- What is the background of the project?
- What are they trying to accomplish? (This should be found in the project brief.)
- What assumptions or data is your approach based on?
- Who have you talked to? What data have you had access to?
- What are you missing or not even thinking about?
- What have you tried already?
- What previous iterations have you worked through or moved beyond?
- What level of feedback are you looking for?
- Are you looking for input on overall approach or nitty-gritty details?
Design Team Sync-Up
By our powers combined…
Intentions & Capabilities
“If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”
- We set intentions for ourselves to document ways in which we want to progress within our practice and careers.
- We also use a Capability Framework to assess our progress within specific skillsets for each role.
- At Bixal, there is a yearly performance review process.
Intentions follow the why-how-what framework from Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle. These are the basic questions, as applied to an individual context:
- Why am I here? (purpose)
- How will I further my why? (outcome)
- What specifically will I do to demonstrate how I am doing? (output)
The capability framework is based on the UK.gov Service Manual and has been adapted for use on our team. It can be used in the following ways:
- Understand what skills are needed to do a particular job.
- Identify skills needed to progress to the next level within a job.
- Assess progression of skill development as part of performance reviews.
- Create job ads to recruit for UX Design jobs.
- Plan staffing needs for current and upcoming projects.
We are essentially a fully-distributed company now. Since the default is “working from home” until further notice, we no longer need to do weekly updates on our location in the Admin channel.
It may still be helpful in a couple situations, however:
- If you have an appointment or PTO that you’re going to be out for.
- If something changes to your original post.
Otherwise, no need to tell the whole company you’re WFH all week every week. 😬
Let’s be good stewards of other people’s time.
- Include a goal and agenda on every meeting invite.
- Account for the various ways people may be joining your meeting:
- Web conference for people on their computers
- Phone numbers for people on their phones
- Conference rooms for people co-located
- If you need to make a change to a meeting invite, include a note at the top that describes what you changed so participants receiving the updated invite don’t have to guess.
- Let people know what they can do to prepare for the meeting.
- If there are any links (for example, documents or web conference), make sure they are active so people can click them.
- When scheduling a meeting, first check people’s calendars. Then, unless they’re already expecting to hear from you, check with them directly if they have time. (Don’t assume an open time slot means it’s yours for the taking.)
To make this easier, consider using the Mindful Meeting Template or something like it.
Monthly workshops give us a chance to align on our practices across projects and collaborate on artifacts to document them.
- About once a month, we get the UX Team together to do a working session of some sort.
- Topics vary and it’s open to any suggestions.
- Previous topics include:
- How might we capture InVision best practices?
- How might we encourage better use of Jira?
- Building our version of the Methods toolkit
- How might we better consider inclusion and diversity in our practice area?
One-on-ones ensure that you have a dedicated opportunity to sync-up with your manager.
- Since we’ve introduced Design Duos, there are “office hours” blocked off for manager one-on-ones, but they are scheduled on an ad-hoc basis.
- This is your time to raise any questions or concerns you have about anything. You control the agenda.
- It’s not necessarily a “what are you working on” check-in, though feel free to raise topics relating to projects and project work.
Paid Time Off
We have a “generous PTO policy.” In general, it includes 5 weeks total for both vacation and sick leave. Don’t forget to use it!
See the Employee Handbook for the full details and procedures. Both the handbook and a PTO request procedure diagram are available in Paylocity.
“where time becomes a loop… where time becomes a loop…”
For anything related to projects you’re actively engaged in and billing to, charge to the project code provided by the project manager.
Since there are no more “general overhead” billing codes, work that practice-related but not project-specific should fall under one of these tasks:
- Design Research and Training: general practice enrichment that doesn’t related directly to a project or official corporate design project. This could be things like articles you read and share or occasional webinars. It also includes internal practice efforts like contributing to Bixal Methods.
- General Project Related Support/Meetings: temporarily help on a project that you’re not actively engaged with or billing to.
- General Design Team Management: administrative, non-projects tasks like planning or timesheets. For managers, efforts related to supporting the design team or practice area.
- Corporate Design Projects (other than branding): mostly for the Visual Design team, official internal projects that are not branding-related.
- Workshop and Team Building: group activities, like the Design Sync, UX Workshop, or Design Duos.
- One-on-One Meetings: one-on-ones with managers.
- Security: security clearance activities or support tasks relating to security, such as software updates or training.
- Leadership Meetings: mostly for managers, meetings about leader-y things.
- Monthly All Hands Meetings: monthly all hands meetings.
Outside of projects and the practice, there are some additional corporate categories. This does not necessarily include everything, so if you don’t see something here or have a question, just ask.
- BIXAL BUSINESS.DEVELOPMENT: support for an RFI, RFQ, workshop, or similar business opportunity activity. Not there are different tasks that you may need to be added to depending on the situation.
- BIXAL RECRUITING: support for hiring activities such as interviews or resume/portfolio reviews. Note there are different tasks for proposals vs. current contracts.
- BIXAL BIXAL.BRANDING: support for Bixal.com or other marketing and branding activities.
- BIXAL PROFESSIONAL.DEVELOPMENT.2021: approved professional development activities.
See section 7 in the Employee Handbook on “Timekeeping Policies.”
One thing to add: If you make a change after the initial submission, please remind your manager to go back in and re-approve. There are no system reminders that this needs to happen, only urgent emails and chat from people trying to process payroll.
Working with the Project Team
We value co-create and collaboration, so we try to think about how we can incorporate the whole project team as much as possible.
- Get visual artifacts into InVision as quickly as possible and encourage feedback there.
- This obviously includes screens but may also includes things like site maps, task flows, journey maps, service blueprints, etc.
- During meetings and workshops, encourage the creation of artifacts over continuous discussion.
- This could include shared notes but also things like concept maps, sketches, and journey flows.
- While UX Design happens at the intersection of business goals, user/customer goals, and technical constraints, keep in mind that people in different roles have different responsibilities and concerns. We tend to focus on the user/customers goals piece, but consider others’ perspectives as well.
- PMs are concerned about keeping clients happy and delivering contracted work on time.
- Developers are concerned about reducing technical complexity and not running out of time.