There are some problems that are exacerbated or introduced by new technologies or socio-economic shifts. There are others that are perennial.
Working next to, communicating with and leading others in shared goals is as old as us Homo Sapiens. Our species overcame great odds and built every piece of technology we have today through our ability to motivate and fire the imaginations of ever-increasing numbers of people around us.
Nowadays, in the professional context, we call this 'management'. It has this stuffy, corporate feel to it, reflected in the literature you'll find when trying to learn best practices. White men in suits standing with their arms crossed, in generic hard-to-apply books.
For a first time manager of any team, you're basically left to your own devices. If you've previously been a maker (for example a designer or engineer) this is a double whammy.
Wait, I don't get to create any more and I have to sit in meetings and talk about feelings and culture?
One thing on your plate at some point will be deciding what 'good' looks like. What defines a senior designer? What qualities go into managerial potential? How can team members tell where they stand?
Doing this fairly across a team is hard. It takes weeks of filling in squares in your spreadsheet, getting buy-in from those around you, running it by the team, tweaking to make sure it's actionable. And when you're done, you're left with a tool that still can't track progress, and still looks like a spreadsheet.
Your 1:1 conversation isn't any easier. Goals are hard to set, progress hard to measure. You simplify the framework, but leave out important detail which allows for misinterpretation. Gradually it's left on a shelf while you resort to ad-hoc judgement calls on competency and levelling.
Now imagine being a designer in that team. There's nowhere to look to understand how to improve, and as the team grows new ever more senior job titles appear above you. You're working hard, and 'hustling' but with every step forwards the goalposts move two steps away from you.
Suddenly, Linkedin pings. The job title you wanted, with a nice salary bump. Right there for the taking, from the company across the street. Why wouldn't you take it?
We have a hundred tools to move pixels, design interactions, and now increasingly turn our designs into code. But there's still no toolkit for managers.
Spreadsheets aren't good enough. They underserve managers, who in turn underserve their teams.
I want us to do better.
If you believe as I do, and want to chat through it with me, please do reach out using the chat bubble or on email@example.com.