The Personal Professional Mission: Building a Framework

Illustration by Isabela Humphrey

Throughout my career, I have managed and built many different kinds of design teams. I prided myself on being intentional about building teams knowing that implicit in the role of Design Operations is culture creation. Why do healthy teams matter? Because great teams = great work. At frog, we would kick off projects with what was called a “team leap,” which established team and individual purpose. This process had two key components: establishing the essential goal of the team, and identifying what everyone hopes to get out of the project. Framing each project as an opportunity for individual growth helps people feel motivated. Clarity of team purpose helps drive alignment and empowerment. As a team, we would hold each other accountable to these “playbooks” as well as stay mindful of everyone’s established personal and professional parameters.

Once I made the transition into tech and away from project-based work, I was inspired to focus on the whole Designer Experience. Going through the exercise of mapping the designer journey, I was able to uncover some of the most salient moments that matter in opportunities for personal growth and professional development.

Knowing the top three reasons people leave companies are centered around lack of career path and reason for being, I quickly built a framework for the Personal Professional Mission (PPM) that could orient designers at every stage in their career. Over time the overarching designer journey would be the foundation for one’s broader personal, professional journey. This approach can organically foster a sense of belonging, connection, and community. Additionally, putting in place a support system that sets a clear path for growth and development can increase discipline in practice. In short, fulfilled people = great work.

“The single most important thing a boss can do is focus on guidance: giving it, receiving it, and encouraging it.” Kim Scott, Radical Candor

Using the traditional SWOT analysis as the basis, the approach to the PPM starts and ends with an environment of psychological safety. The process in co-creating this “mission” establishes a relationship between managers and individuals based on mutual respect, openness, trust, reflection, and self-awareness.

There are four steps to building a PPM. Step one in the framework is to brainstorm four areas:

  • Successes: Recognizing what’s worked well throughout your career, on your teams, and in project work.
  • Strengths: Past successes or underutilized skills.
  • Opportunities: Areas from which to learn, improve, and grow.
  • Passions: A critical piece of the personal part, and often most difficult to assess. Aligning one’s passions to their work opens up the ability to think holistically about your personal, professional trajectory.

The second step is to (collaboratively) identify themes, cluster commonalities, and rank the three areas that would be most impactful to you and your professional development.

Once you have identified those areas of focus asking the harder questions such as How do you use your successes to take advantage of opportunities? and What can you do about your opportunity areas to better align with your areas of passion? allows designers to think hard about things that are most important to them, the areas they want to focus on right now, and proactively plan for the path they want to take. Through this process, I worked with my team to set up individual OKR’s that mapped to 3, 6 and 12 months. While this document is living, establishing a baseline is critical. Referring back to that baseline over the year to track progress can give each person a sense of purpose, a mission, and actual measurement tools to get there.

The only thing one can truly own is their path. Jobs come and go; it’s what you bring to and take from each experience that stays with you. The PPM is not a performance management tool, but it is a professional development tool that can begin to build a clearer map towards the greater journey.

Published by sntdo

sntdo is short for Sentido, Spanish for "Sense." All things sense-making / True Yorker / kid wrangler / Head of Design Operations @InVision / @automattic @frogdesign @hotstudio alumn / Design Diplomat / Hostage Negotiator / Boricua