User Experience Design is a multi-faceted field requiring excellence in strategy and tactics. User Experience designer John McGloon recently wrote an article describing the difference as, “A lieutenant on a hill planning a mission exemplifies the strategic view,” while, “A sergeant working with troops on the ground to execute the mission exemplifies the tactical.” Just as with a battlefield, you need excellent execution at both levels in order to ensure success.

Strategic leadership typically comes from someone near the top of an organization. McGloon writes, “In UX terms, strategic leadership means looking at long-range plans, your UX department’s position in the company, funding models, and more.” Because UX is such a new concept at many companies, this leader is often engaged in promoting and/or defending the practice internally. An active UX strategic leader should ensure that UX is incorporated into other corporate goals and long range plans. “Alignment with company goals,” says McGloon, “helps ensure your team’s recognition as a corporate asset.”

Tactical UX leadership, meanwhile, is much more hands on. “Whatever their title, these managers are the first-line leaders who work directly with UX designers,” writes McGloon, “managing them in a hands-on capacity as direct reports. Depending on your corporate culture, this may mean serving those you manage. But regardless of culture, these managers must enable the work and execute the strategic goals given to them by their leaders. They must manage User Experience Design efforts like a project (or “project within a project”), though they may share that role with a lead UX designer. They must be good coaches and solve day-to-day problems.”

The truth is that implementing a UX program takes a lot of different styles of work and management. McGloon is correct to recognize the real value brought by both strategic and tactical leadership to any project by an experienced User Experience & Design company like DOOR3. Which aspect of UX leadership does your organization handle better, strategic or tactical? How do you plan to make sure you’re getting the best of both?

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