Design leadership – Culture

Honey culture

With me promoted to the Head of Design in 2019, one of my most important tasks was to design Honey Design's culture that can guide, motivate and champion us. The entire company has been product and engineer driven for years. How might we build a culture to guide the design team first and then influence the whole company to be more design-driven and user-centric?


Honey Design Team Charter

The Problem
Lacking high-level guidelines to navigate the team from 10,000 ft biz strategy to 1 ft day-to-day pixel pushing.
The impact
Boosted morale. Less misaligned behavior. Clearer guidance for managers to coach team members.

We had well-crafted company charters by the leadership team from day one. Our CEO has been preaching to us on weekly basis. However, there was still a gap in how these broad statements can be translated into more specific ones for each functional department.

charter before

Without the charter, the team was treading the mud at every layer from the top big picture to bottom surface works.

  • Team Annual Goals
  • ~The Pain: Design team functioned as a pure recipient of the product by only working on tactical asks, and mostly at the last minute.
  • ~How it can Help: Design team can set its own strategic goals using the Vision & Mission in the charter. The design will no longer work for the product. Instead, we are helping the product to be successful. For example, we drove the A11y initiatives in 2021 based on our mission statement.
  • Project Works
  • ~The Pain: Design team's output started to become inconsistent with the team growing bigger. For example, everyone knows the importance of innovation, but how and when?
  • ~How it can Help: The Design Principles in the charter can really address this issue. One of our principles says "Innovate when necessary", which provides a clear guide of innovating at 20% while using industry best practices for the rest of 80%.
  • Manager Goal Setting
  • ~The Pain: Design managers didn't have clear and aligned rules to identify team members' misbehavior. Nor could they set proper goals for the team at the beginning.
  • ~How it can Help: The Values in the charter can really address this. For example, if a manager identifies a team member is giving unconstructive feedback, she can now direct her team member to one of our values of "Make everyone around you better".

The entire process was bottom-up. Instead of me dictating everything, we ran lots of workshops and discussions and finally ended up with the results below.

1. Research

I explored both externally on what are peers' charters look like and internally on what are our company and team goals for this and upcoming years. For the vision part, we decided to continue using Honey's company vision but with design reinterpretation. For the mission part, we wrote one by aggregating all of our team and company goals.

charter draft

2. Skeleton

Then, I put everything into this outline by splitting them into 4 pillars: The Why, The Who, The What, and The How with the reinterpreted vision, mission, and values.

charter IA

3. Results

Once everything is finalized and organized in Notion and Figma. Preaching constantly to the team with real examples is the key to ironing these in our DNA. You can see in the 'Who we are?' part, I even included our team members' true stories as examples. It strengthened the idea of 'This is OUR values, not values I made up and force on everyone.' (Only showing the Why and Who parts below)

charter presentation why
charter presentation who
More Works