10 things I want to return to in Leading Content Design
Rachel McConnell’s book is a practical guide to all things content ops.
Why I read this book
I’ve been a manager for a little over a year and a half now, so reading a book about leading content design seemed super relevant to me.
I also joined the Lead With Tempo slack group earlier this year, which is a space for content leaders and is run by the book’s author. I’ve been learning so many great things through this group, so I expected this book to be a great resource as well, and it was.
Why this post
The book was a really useful and comprehensive resource of ways to improve my team and how we work. I was highlighting things left and right.
Not everything I read was relevant to or doable in my job at the moment, so this post is a list of things I want to return to at some point.
So apologies in advance that this won’t be a very detailed post for outside readers — it’s more of a reminder to me of what to check out again!
1. Questions to ask in ops discovery
Rachel suggests improving ops the same way you’d do any other design project: start with discovery before narrowing in to the biggest pain points and creating solutions.
The lists of questions she gives on what to ask content professionals and non-content stakeholders in interviews (pages 18–19) is a handy list I’d want to return to if I was starting a new leadership role at another organization.
They’re things like what do you spend your time doing and what are your biggest challenges. If I changed jobs, I think these questions are a great primer to understand how things are working.
There’s also a helpful experience map template on page 23 to organize the insights you get from interviews.
2. How to assess team skills
Thanks to the Lead With Tempo slack group, I learned about a great template and process to use for assessing skill levels in my team.
Chapter 3 (pages 34–43) defines a similar process, with some extra points I’d like to add into my process for next time and other ideas I want to consider:
- creating firmer targets for what level I expect junior to mid-level content designers to be at (so team members have a better idea of where they need to improve)
- creating both individual and group training plans (I’ve focused more on individual plans this year — I want to give more thought to group sessions needed)
- setting up a shared resource library (we have a team-wide one, but would be good to set one up just for the content designers)
- running workshops to get more practice with tools we use
3. Briefing template
The briefing template asks a bunch of questions needed to complete a content request (page 62).
I’d say it’s more relevant to the content ops side of my team which deals with service requests, so it’s something I’d like to share with them.
It’d help them make sure we’re not receiving random, unfocused work requests and understand everything they need to about the job.
4. Test template
I create test scripts, but what I realized through a group playback with my team last year, was that I was bad about defining the goals of our tests.
I think the bullet points Rachel gives for a test template (page 75) are a good starting point to have a rethink about how I structure future scripts. Having a set template will save me time when creating these.
5. Audit actions
Page 78 lists a few suggestions for audit actions to include in your audit template (for example: remove, update, improve).
I think this is a handy category to include as it will make creating follow-up tasks from an audit easier.
6. Project framework
Page 94 gives a useful framework for documenting different aspects of a project as it goes from discovery approach to learnings for future.
This is related to something I discussed with members of my team recently about how we don’t have a formalized way of documenting our design iterations and the changes we’ve made.
I like the idea of one place where we can go to essentially tell the story of the project as it progresses.
7. Conversational ideation workshops
Pages 95–98 share a technique for creating design solutions through colleagues role-playing a conversation for a content interaction they want to create.
I think this would be a helpful technique for my team to use when designing forms.
Page 98 describes an activity to assess what could go wrong in a project before you start and come up with ways to mitigate the risk.
I think I’ll be returning to this quite soon as I’d like my team to try this out before kicking off our next major project.
9. Categorizing feedback
Pages 108–109 gives suggestions of how to categorize stakeholder feedback (for example: typos or legal issues).
What I like about creating categories like this is, as Rachel says, it allows you to be transparent with everyone about what feedback you’re looking for.
This way, you can avoid having stakeholders thinking their design opinions are something to be actioned just because they said it.
10. Case study template
Page 129 list points to add in a case study template. I actually did this last year in creating a template for how to write a blog post about our project work.
I now want to compare what I wrote up against the points Rachel lists and see if there are any amendments I want to make to my template.
10 books in 2023
This is my sixth book recap as part of my 2023 goal to read 10 books this year.
- 6 things I learned reading The 1619 Project
- 4 reflections after reading The Connected Campus
- 5 quotes I want to remember from Mating in Captivity
- Mental Models didn’t help me learn what I wanted to about mental models
- What I learned about Matthew McConaughey from reading Greenlights
I’m going for an immigration book next: Hostile Environment by Maya Goodfellow.