In early 2016, I was presented with an opportunity to run the operations for Shopify’s 50 person Partners team — made up of five sub teams. As a designer the role was very different than what I was used to and it came with a lot of interesting challenges. The responsibilities of this role included product management, regular reporting, and organizational management. One of my favourite challenges to work on in my time there was giving people the information they needed to make the best decisions at the right time.

Doing my research

Thanks to my design background, I had a number of tools to lean on which helped me guide the team to achieve successful results for four straight quarters. Kicking things off, I approached this new role like I would any other project and put on my researcher hat. While I made sure business went on as usual, I also spent a good part of my early days in the role analyzing tons of data, interviewing all kinds of stakeholders, and running a number of facilitated sessions.

Creating a vision

Working closely with each team, we created a shared vision of what we wanted to achieve. From there, I helped them connect their goals to our business metrics and then used the data designer in me to create dashboards for reporting back the progress. The work didn’t end there though, even though we had all these fancy dashboards and beautifully articulated goals things didn’t feel like they progressed as we initially had planned.

Testing and refining

The problem I noticed after our first quarterly check-in was that people were working on completely different things than we agreed on at the beginning of the quarter. That’s when I learned one of the most valuable lessons while in this role: if you don’t check your goals regularly then it’s easy for other priorities to creep in and distract the team from achieving their goals.

After that initial meeting, I set up regular check-ins with the team leads to review our progress, discuss roadblocks, and also collect feedback on our process so we could continue to refine it. These efforts very quickly paid off as we were able to move more nimbly in prioritizing new efforts and making adjustments to our plans where necessary.