Fostering the environment for good design to happen

Cultivating a culture of trust, collaboration and inspiration

Project type
Design leadership
Primary skill
Relevant link

At a glance


growth in the team


increase in OPEX funding



After being with Officeworks for a little over 12 months, I was entrusted with taking on an interm design lead role, which soon resulted in taking the role on permanently. At Officeworks, the design lead role is the design manager, sitting within the Customer Experience team.

I had grown really close to the small design team we had and was honoured to be trusted by both them and my manager to take this role on.


I had noticed several gaps in the team structure and processes that were preventing us from achieving things to the best of our ability, so the first thing was to really assess these opportunities and work towards resolving them.

The team were working inefficiently, they had little they were excited about and career progression wasn't achievable. They deserved better.

This project highlights some of the initial work I did to set us up for success. You can see some of the outcomes that has resulted in with this project.


I've broken the process for this work into a couple of areas.

  • Strategic: looking at the background and managing up to ensure I get to the right outcomes to drive the team forward.
  • Operational: the day to day things that were enabled through strategic thinking, and which continues to set us up for the success highlighted in this project.


Team workshops and private discussions to find challenges

Like any good designer, I started with some workshops to really get to the bottom of the challenges we were having. I also had private discussions to ensure no one's voice was silenced. These sessions were held with the team, but also wider across the org to ensure diversity in thought and understanding.

This has nowtransformed into monthly team retros, which have been crucial in maintaining an understanding of where the team is at and what challenges we're resolving.

This process highlighted some big gaps, and confirmed others. I was able to use my findings to generate a report for the Head of CX, my 1-up, to talk about how we can improve the design function. I was also able to seek further help with things I wasn't as experienced in.

One of the other great outcomes was the development of a 'Design Vision' which is a fancy way of showing how design can and should have impact. Importantly, I also defined the layers needed to level up design.

Reduction in processes and approvals, placing trust back with the team

Something that was hugely evident to me, but not necessarily raised as direct feedback, was that the team lacked trust of themselves to make decisions. This was born from an environment which required them to seek approvals constantly and act like 'wireframe monkeys' (as a former colleague once put it). Basically, they just did what they were told, rather than thinking critically and being empowered to make the right decision for the products, customers and business.

The Head of CX often aspired to have the design function return to a place of trust and influence within the org. I developed a team plan, showcasing the three steps to get this success. The team needed to be empowered to become more influential, engaged to better understand the business and evolve beyond low-level UI practices.

Evangelising the funding model

I'll be honest. I didn't (and still kinda don't) fully understand the intricacies of business funding. OPEX, CAPEX, P&L... How I see it is we have a critical role to perform and we need to be empowered to do that. Design needs to be able to work where they can generate the best impact for the business at whatever point in the development or strategy cycle that is.

Although already being worked on by my 1-up, I advocated for greater ability to break away from "delivery mode" and head towards having impact where we needed. This resulted in a change in our funding, giving us far greater OPEX allowance than before, from around 10% to 60%.

This has created an environment where designers became more free to experiment, test, learn and advocate for better outcomes for both the business and customers.

A change in funding model enabled the design team to start ideating and innovating again. Beautiful design concept by Gráinne.


Growing the team and maintaining diversity

One thing the team certainly has to be proud of is our fantastic diversity. It can't be understated how important diversity is in design- different cultures, backgrounds, education, work and other experiences all make for the best design and customer outcomes you can hope for.

I continued to hire diversely, increasing our team by 100% - adding three new senior designers and a mid-weight designer. As part of this hiring process, I also improved and rebuilt the interview questions and processes to give a better experience to all applicants.

Further, we are almost ready to update our titles across the team following my rewrite of the position description to better reflect the incredible work we actually do. Rather than just focussing in UX, the team really are unicorn designers, working across UX, UI, service and CX design.

Upskilling and growth opportunities

I identified a distinct lack in learning and growth opportunities for the team. I've been able to turn this around, sending every designer to at least one conference, show or course. This is greatly appreciated by the team and ensures they are continuing to bring new knowledge into the business and maintain their engagement and sense of self-worth.

Design Outlook 22, which was attended by a few of the design team

Individual skills assessment

Another valuable enabler was the skill mapping I completed across the team. Whilst I won't share the results for obvious reasons, this has created a clear shape of the team across tools, soft skills. leadership, visual design, content, interaction design and research.

The benefits of this are enormous. My three main use cases is mapping year-to-year for performance discussions (especially where a designer indicates they want to upskill in a particular area); understanding what skills I should hire for; and understanding what skills I have when estimating and planning work.

Design Plan and other artefacts

There have many many artefacts I've successfully been able to get the team to focus on and finalise. These include principles, journeys, personas and templates. The benefits are obvious - it saves us time and helps us to articulate our value and what we do consistently. I have some more details in this project.

One of the best templates created is our Design Plan. It is a quick and easy way for us to communicate intent, effort and time to stakeholders. Being clear on 'what they get' has helped to progress our discussions and get us the time we need to do good design.

The Design Plan is a community document. Any of the team can make changes to the embedded templates and identify themselves as the latest owner of that piece. This ensures our templates and documents are always up to date and useful.

Assessment of software that enables the team

Finally, a large assessment of current software was completed. I identified that we simply didn't have the software to get the work done, or in some cases were unable to use the software due to funding limitations.

Would you believe me if I said when I came onboard, the team were barely even testing their designs? This was occurring because delivery teams didn't ever have the "funding" to "let us do it." A simple change to centrally funding Askable from the CX team (and charging it back as part of our standard finance processes) meant we could now actually ensure what we were designing was going to be useful and useable.

There are several other software changes I'm still working on. Most recently, we were able to start procurement on switching to Figma from XD, a change which had been begged for due to the many limitations of XD.


The team is now far more engaged and excited for the work they do. Whilst this is hard to quantify (and I base that statement on regular verbal feedback), some of the things I'm seeing in the team retros include:

  • Greater team collaboration
  • Fantastic new templates to work from
  • New research and input into product roadmaps
  • Lovely new team members to work with
  • More social events
I can see that you will really drive a better outcome... for all of us in CX - keep your passion going...
Head of Customer Experience

More about this project

I've written up a full case study for this project over on my blog.