How do you measure a designer's quality/consistency?

Soooo, our design department has gone through the rungs of measuring all things tangible. Everything from design time on various software platforms to number of designs produced in a given time frame. We’ve also gone the route of how quickly does one design take regardless of developmental variations.

Now, some people have come back and asked us to measure a designer’s quality / consistency. I find the subject matter highly susceptible to subjectivity. Someone could rate you poorly because they don’t like the soap you used. Or rate you highly because you’re wearing their favorite color that day. But regardless, the question still remains.

How would you measure a designer’s quality/consistency?

Time for spin control, you gotta butter some people up. I’m for real on this, business ethics is an oxymoron, if you like it there call in some favors and hook some people up with whatever. Make them all love you, then articulate way you are irreplaceable and how it is not speed but how commercially successful your designs are that make you best.

If you do not like it there however, just suggest something like the closing seine to Boogie Nights as your ruler to hold everyone against. <exit to slow clap?>

Hey, did they already install an assembly line in the design departement? :open_mouth:

trying to get serious:

Having BAs in Design and Business under my belt I tend to understand the necessities and implications of
corporate decision making rather well, but what I am wondering about here is how the design departement
is structured:

Are you tackling business cases as teams or as competing individual designers, each one in his cubicle?

The net result of new products may be perfectly measurable, but how to you measure who brought what
to the party? Are you working towards fixed goals, milestones? What is considered “success” in your case?

I could rant on like that, but perhaps you could answer these questions first.

All the best.

yours mo-i

lol, that’s what they hope to do. At the end of the day they don’t know what they want. One second they say they want all these metrics in place. This of course requires discipline and reduces the flexibility of the department to respond to immediate requests. Everything needs to be processed and checked out. Then they’ll start to complain about how they can’t just come in here and drop a request on our desk and get the immediate attention and fast turn around they expect. They want blue pie in the sky creativity but want a fully commericalized product ready to go in a few hours.

How we handle requests vary on the nature of the request. Most are handled individually but some require the whole deparment. It varies dramatically, designers are pulled mid-stream to assist on another’s project for various reasons.

I agree we can measure the results of new products. That would consist of a simple ROI formulation. There is no hurdle rate shared with the design department. Also since we’re a supplier and fully integrated with other business units, it’s hard to tell who should be credited with the success of the product. Was it sales? Marketing? converting? machinery? At the end of the day the solution is balled up and handed to the client.

I’d explain that by putting all this bureaucratic BS on the creative team, they are limiting the quality and consistency of the entire department…

Ask them to go measure fairy dust. Can’t be done. Sometimes a ideas come quickly, sometimes they take for ever. The same designer might have 10 commercial hits, then nothing for years, then hit a streak again. A designer thats been noodling away might come through with a huge break through.

If they want a design team that produces quality results consistently, they need to establish a creative thought leader who wil nurture a creative environment. Don’t let them measure you, you measure them. Boom, roasted.

Isn’t this the same thing as a standard performance review?

For quality you can rate people subjectively against important and measurable attributes, and you can rate objectively based on their meeting hard goals (including things like specifications-targets for customer ratings.) That’s what I’m used to doing.

For consistency, you simply compare with previous scores.

Usually your boss would do this, but you can also do a peer review, which I think makes sense when you’re working in a matrixed organization and may have dotted-line reporting into various project teams. An average of scores would help reduce the subjectivity you’re worried about.

I got the sense that what they are going for is more of a metric (correct me if I’m wrong). A way to compare human productivity with numbers. While this can work well on a factory floor, and even on the accounting floor, it is much more relative and subjective on the design studio floor, and I’ve found that can be hard for the other disciplines to fully understand.

However, as CG points out, a constructive review is possible, and necessary for your team to know how and where to improve and document progress or lack there of for the HR department to file. I’m a big believer in putting a lot of time into these and I collect information based on 10 or so key questions from a designer’s peers in design, engineering, and marketing, compare that against notes I’ve taken on the designers successes and opportunities to improve, and then run that by my boss and my own instinctual feeling for how this person is doing… it’s a process, and it doesn’t result in any hard numbers, but it is actually helpful.

Sounds like they are trying to implement some sort of Six Sigma BS, which is what it is…complete BS. My former employer brought in some sort of “black belt” Six Sigma person and I can assure you that creativity fell out the window. Everything , EVERYTHING was based on how long it took to assemble something on the production floor. If it couldn’t be made completely out of one type of screw, then it wasn’t a good design. Now, I’m all for DFM, but come on! At some point, the actual design and passion for a product needs to rule. Otherwise, what do you have? You have a product that nobody wants, but gosh it sure is easy to build!!

Six Sigma kills innovation. Absolutely slaughters it.

experience with the designer


and references

otherwise its like trying to quantify something like how “cute” something is (for lack of a better example)

good analogy Taylor.

Does this sound like your office?

or on a funnier note from 30 Rock: The Six Sigmas - Teamwork, Insight, Brutality, Male Enhancement, Handshakefulness, and Play Hard

That article made me shiver. I had this same experience at my last company, and it’s why I quit.

Defenders of Six Sigma at 3M claim that a more systematic new-product introduction process allows innovations to get to market faster. But Fry, the Post-it note inventor, disagrees. In fact, he places the blame for 3M’s recent lack of innovative sizzle squarely on Six Sigma’s application in 3M’s research labs. Innovation, he says, is “a numbers game. You have to go through 5,000 to 6,000 raw ideas to find one successful business.” Six Sigma would ask, why not eliminate all that waste and just come up with the right idea the first time? That way of thinking, says Fry, can have serious side effects. “What’s remarkable is how fast a culture can be torn apart,” says Fry, who lives in Maplewood, Minn., just a few minutes south of the corporate campus and pops into the office regularly to help with colleagues’ projects. “[McNerney] didn’t kill it, because he wasn’t here long enough. But if he had been here much longer, I think he could have.”

Sounds like the kind of thing your creative director should be protecting you from!
That said, in all of this PITA counter-intuitive process, there’s potential here for some personal development - learn from the best bits and mentally leave the BS by the wayside…

Yes this exactly what’s going on. They had all the designers go through six sigma training a few years ago. I actually got into a debate with the facilitator about this exact thing and I even cited the creation of the Post-It and potato chips. He didn’t have a good response to my inquiry. Somehow they decided to stick me with being a lean sigma team leader later in the year. I guess to punish me?

They classified it as a transactional six sigma program for environments off the manufacturing floor. I’m still not sure how successful it has been considering their initial metrics to initiate a project was highly speculative to begin with.

Our leadership is fighting back. But it is challenging to do so when your department is considered overhead and the other guy you’re fighting againist is bringning the money into the company. I believe the metrics in which the BU’s are measured needs to be adjusted.

The bottom line is that you cannot schedule creativity. “From 11:05 to 12:10 I will be inventing the next Post-It Note” It just doesn’t work that way. They’ll come back with something like, “Well, we’re not telling you, you can’t be innovative another time of the day. Simply note the thought you had, and work on it at that time”

I can tell you first hand, it’s terrifying.

LOL, knowing my guys, they would say something like “Now if we implement six sigma, we think we can “help” accelerate the time to the customer. Let’s work together to improve the turn around by 15%?”

I agree, and yes it does concern me.

Really great comments on here. The implementation of Six Sigma was a major reason for me quitting my last job. It’s a real shame too, because the company is based upon bringing out quality and innovative products to the consumer, NOT how quickly it can be screwed together.

Not sure if this is helpful at the individual level, but at the department level, Marketing uses a metric of Marketing dollars per profit dollar. That same could be used for a design department - Dollars spent by the design department to dollars of profit. This can be done on a per product or per product line basis. The goal of this is to say that you use less resources (in this case) money to produce higher profits.

Most things depend on your performance evaluation criteria, what I call “Follow the money”. Does your company use Team-based Performance Systems (TPMS)? This is where the performance criteria that people keep their jobs or get raises is based on team goals and not individual goals. If you have TPMS then metrics should be based on team performance and not department or individual goals.

We use KPI’s to assure alignment of the company’s goals which cascade down to the individual. The only problem to that is the goals are year long initiatives and what they’re looking for is some metric that details down to the individual tasks assigned to a designer.