As part of establishing a successful business change programme, it is very important to appoint a Design Lead – someone who owns the design. Failure to do so can lead to considerable confusion and a tendency for the void to be filled by the programme or individual project managers.
Aside from the issue of whether the programme and project managers have the relevant design skills and experience, this blurring of responsibility can lead to a major conflict of interest. The focus and priorities of project management and design are not always aligned; and there needs to be a clear separation of roles to ensure effective governance.
So what does the role of Design Lead entail, what skills and level of experience is required and who typically fills the role?
The Design Lead is a senior programme role. They have responsibility for the design, working in partnership with the “Design Authority” – the person or persons, with overall accountability for the project, residing in the business.
The Design Lead needs extensive design, team leadership and project management skills and experience. Relationship management is also an essential skill, with the need to forge a successful working relationship with the programme manager, project managers, design authority and stakeholders. Design experience needs to cover all the principal design domains – process, people, data, location and technology.
The Design Lead will typically be a professional service designer, with a background in business architecture, service design and business analysis. They should have extensive experience of delivering major service and operating model designs, across the entire life-cycle, from conceptual design through to deployment. The level of experience required will be proportional to the scale of the business change taking place.
So, if you are working within a business change programme, ask yourself – who is the Design Lead? If this is not clear, or if the role is in the wrong pair of hands, problems almost certainly await, if they haven’t arisen already.