Colorful new years fireworks

Design Your New [Year’s] Measurements for Success

Welcome back to a fresh, new year edition of my Design Strategy blog series. Like many articles at this time of year, we will be reflecting on the past year and gazing into the crystal ball of 2024. I will once again skip the “how-to” dry laundry lists of tactical “do this/don’t do that” mechanics and focus on the WHY of doing things differently to mature and scale your digital accessibility program quickly. 

While most organizations match their fiscal year to the calendar year, there are a large number that don’t. This information can easily apply to companies in either scenario.

The Problem

You’re trying to rapidly shut down your previous year while simultaneously generating “stretch” goals and objectives for this year that are still obtainable. Maybe you have the additional duty of being a people manager so you’re also racing to get reviews wrapped up and compensation conversations resolved. It’s a lot for any time of year! But it is extra difficult to navigate coming off the holiday season and maybe you’re a little sluggish back at your work bench. 

I often hear from clients that they also have additional problems on top of year-end stuff, making it even harder to focus on getting a strong start to the new year. Maybe you are also encountering these:

  • Missing or incomplete program metrics data: you just don’t have the data you thought you would have.
  • Goals that are no longer relevant, but it wasn’t realized until many months after they were set (and worked on).
  • A major organizational event happened midyear that changed the trajectory of your team—or even the company—and it’s taking a long time to “turn the ship” but new goals to match these changes were never established.
  • Something big is on the horizon that will profoundly change your program so you want to wait until that happens to document a plan.
  • Additional cost containment efforts.
  • Work in general just didn’t go to plan due to things outside of your control.
  • And, for those of you still using InVision, you’ll need to add ‘finding new design software’ since they announced they will be closing shop by the end of 2024.

Whatever you’re facing, know that you are not alone.

The ‘A-ha!’ Moment

For me, the moment that year-end activities got easier was when I switched my work mindset to focus on goal measurement all year long, and changed my routine to accomplish that. Just like taxes, why wait until the deadline is looming? Make it a rolling activity. This in turn will make it easy to set the next year’s goals and objectives.

  • Block time in your regular schedule to review your data and measurements, as well as check to ensure you are on track towards reaching your goals.
    • Each week, when I prepare my notes for my 1:1 with my leader, I write out ‘achievement statements’ which I repurpose later to contribute to my goal reporting.
  • Book half a day each month to review what has happened and align on where you’re trying to go next.
  • Adjust your goals as you move through the year and things change. Identify new goals as you go along. This leaves you with just having to validate that the next year’s goals are reachable.

What Can We Do with These Insights

Roll up your sleeves and dig in…while leveraging your built-in village–your team and your network!

  • Get help from people that are good with data. Maybe they can help you find the missing data, extrapolate the data, or may even help you find additional data that tells an unanticipated story that casts a golden glow over your program. Figure out a story, even if it was not in your original plan, that shows progress, momentum or velocity.
  • Be your own P.R. maven. 
    • When quantitative data is missing, incomplete, or inadequate, think about what stories you can tell with qualitative data. For example, being able to state that teams are producing less defects [without a specific number] is better than skipping over this positive development in your program. 
    • When quantitative data is plentiful, pivot the data in multiple ways to be able to tell more than one story. For example, recognizing that 3 out 50 programs in a dataset are only in maturity band 2, out of 5 bands, is an important statistic. However, being able to also report that two of these programs advanced to that band this year, and that there were no programs that slid backwards (from band 2 to band 1) this year, is also a great piece of information to communicate.
  • Leverage strategists to help you set goals. Leverage people whose strong suit is strategy; especially if you are a very tactically-focused type. They will help you determine if your objectives are a one-and-done or play into a longer story arc.  Accessibility programs take many years to mature. Ensure you have a good mix of tactical and strategic goals. Strategic-minded folks are also great at looking at program velocity to help you calculate reasonable and achievable objectives. For example, if you’re looking to reduce defect generation by 50% in 3-months, but your program to teach developers how to be proactive in their accessibility efforts runs 9-months, a strategist could help you bring those objectives together into a more cohesive plan and timeline.
  • Work as a collective to tell better stories. Ask your team for input on the bar you are setting for them to deliver. Host collaborative sessions with your team and your internal customers. Work with your external customers to hear their desires and objectives–including in B2B scenarios. Shared goals are more likely to be supported and delivered.
  • Offer input, even when you weren’t asked. Dear reader, if you are not in a leadership role, I highly encourage you to offer suggestions on goals and objectives that you are passionate about–even when they weren’t solicited. I can assure you that, as long as they align to the larger strategic mission, your leadership will embrace your ideas. Leaders know that there is a higher success rate for projects that team members are passionate about.
  • Set aside sufficient time in 2024 to regularly check progress. Good goals are flexible and resilient, but they still need regular monitoring and review. Ensure that you have ample time set aside each month to look at your metrics and goals. Adjusting and finding new goals throughout the year makes it easier to define next year’s goals, and clearly articulate what you achieved this year.
  • Find the root cause problem on missed goals. Use fish bone techniques to find the root cause; don’t just report the symptoms. Define what you learned from missing the goal and how you intend to either solve it or adjust the goal so that it’s more achievable.
  • Don’t count your chickens until they hatch. Don’t wait for that thing on the horizon. Build goals now and report on their progress. That next big thing may be delayed, never happen, or take another form entirely. Wait until things are fact before updating your plan; pivot when you have concrete definition on the new direction of your program.
  • Design multiple measurements to enable you to tell your best story. By using a broad spectrum of measurements, I have extra data to tell stories of program change and efficiency that is above and beyond my initial goals and objectives.

Why I Love This Approach for Solving Design Problems at Scale

These are a few of the many reasons why I love this approach:

  • Designing a system that has me investing time regularly and working on things incrementally has saved me significant time (and heartburn) at the end of the year while simultaneously allowing me to better tell the story of my achievements.
  • Leaders are usually very impressed when you walk into your year-end review and tell them you delivered on your predetermined objectives, but also were able to deliver a long list of extra value derived from your self-initiated additional measurements.
  • Having stories to tell that have specific data embedded in them showcase your program in a strong light, which ultimately builds trust. Having good numbers in your stories paints your program as successful.

The bottom line? You control your narrative. Tell your story with the facts and data that you have gathered.

Join me at axe-con 2024 to hear more about metrics!

I’ll be presenting more on this subject in Building Your Program Through Metrics and Storytelling at axe con 2024 on Thursday, February 22nd at 10am (Eastern). Join me online or in-person at the London, UK Watch Party. Registration is free!

Photo of Matthew Luken

About Matthew Luken

Matthew Luken is a Vice President & Principal Strategy Consultant at Deque. Prior to Deque, Matthew built and ran U.S. Bank’s enterprise-level digital accessibility program. He grew the program from two contractor positions to a team of 75 consultants and leaders providing accessibility design reviews, compliance testing services, defect remediation consulting, and creating/documenting accessibility best practices across the company. The program leveraged 1,500+ implementations of Axe Auditor and almost 4,000 implementations of axe DevTools and Deque University. Matthew was also Head of UXDesign’s Accessibility Center of Practice where he was responsible for creating seamless procedures and processes that supported the digital accessibility team’s mission & objectives while dovetailing with the company’s other Center of Practices like DEI, employee-facing services, and Risk & Compliance. He and his team’s work has been recognized by American Banker, Forrester Research, Business Journal, and The Banker. In his user experience and service design backgrounds, Matthew worked with over 275 brands around the world, covering every vertical and category. He continues to teach User Experience, Service Design and Digital Accessibility at the college-level, as well as mentor new digital designers through several different mentorship programs around the USA.
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