What I’ve learned about building a team

Melanie Cannon
Nov 4, 2016 · 2 min read

I joined Department for Work and Pensions a year ago. One of the things I’ve been focusing on this year is building a strong content design team.

Our first ‘meeting’ was around a table in a London pub, where we agreed we liked the idea of forming a content team.

We now have monthly meetings run by a different one of us each time. We share work, we discuss challenges, we eat biscuits and we enjoy our time together as content people.

This is what I’ve learned so far about building a team.

Hire people who care

Being a content designer on government services is a difficult job. We often work with people who are new to digital, new to agile and new to content design. Hire people who want to help change this culture and make a real difference to the lives of people who use government services. You can help people learn new skills but you can’t make them care.

Help your team develop

The content design role is broad. We write, we research, we prototype, we have difficult conversations and we do a lot of other things. We’re not all equally good at all these things. Help people in your team identify things to improve. It strengthens the whole team and the services we work on.

Be unapologetic about high standards

We are the government’s experts in content. As a content design team our work needs to be consistently well designed. Regular well-run critiques create a safe space to solve problems together, ask questions and keep standards consistently high.

Learn from each other

Everyone on a team has a different background, experience and skills. We don’t all approach things in the same way, and there’s a lot we can learn from each other. Sharing work — the challenges as well as the things that are going well — is a great way of sharing skills.

Help your team do their best work

The strongest leaders I’ve worked with do everything they can to help their teams to do a great job. Involve your team in conversations they can influence and remove things that are getting in their way. It’s your job to help them do the things that are right, but not necessarily easy.

GOV.Design

A collection of open stories on the realities of designing a digital government, shared by the people who work there.

Melanie Cannon

Written by

Head of Content Design, Department for Work and Pensions (These are my views)

GOV.Design

A collection of open stories on the realities of designing a digital government, shared by the people who work there.