Team Health

Cultivating team culture and design excellence with a fully dispersed workforce

Covid moved a 12+ designer team from dispersed offices to fully remote across the county in a time of much uncertainty.

The Mission

Find processes and rituals that support design collaboration, find efficiencies, and nurture culture. Make sure individual folks feel connected and supported.

ClientNBC News DigitalServicesDesign LeadershipYear2021

Becoming responsible for supporting a large design team—while only seeing people through screens and while the number of designers grew rapidly due to teams combining—was a challenge. I needed to find solutions that kept the team connected and growing in their craft.

First, I looked for ways designers could lift each other up.


The team up to that point had been small enough that it was easy to have insight into what every person was working on. As we grew, implementing a stand-up ritual became essential. We were able to kick off the week looking ahead, finding where work and expertise could overlap, and get ahead of any roadblocks. It also was a moment in time for seeing each other on screen and taking a moment to be human and share exciting moments in our lives.

Design All Hands

I also took over running a design meeting that spanned product design, data graphics, art directors, and video and motion design teams across NBC News, MSNBC, and TODAY. This was a moment every few months to share work and insights. While our teams function separately day-to-day, there are often moments where we can and should work together. This meeting often highlighted the results of those efforts and served as a reminder to collaborate with other specialties to create more cohesive and elevated solutions.

Peer Review Pods

Virtually every product designer was on a separate agile team. The siloed nature of that structure while remote led to some designers feeling like they were on an island alone. We, as designers, are also fueled by feedback and critique. I knew I needed to find a solution for fast, frequent, low-stakes feedback and community building. Each designer was assigned to a pod of about 3-4 people. These pods would check in with each other multiple times a week, grow familiar with each others initiatives, run at least a weekly small critique session, and provide feedback and support to each other.

Next, I structured a weekly product design sync for the whole team to come together and learn.

By rotating between themes, the meeting stayed fresh, there was time for preparation, and adequate time for any follow up sessions. Folks on the team would volunteer to share or lead sessions in areas that interested them, stretching workshop and presentation skills with a friendly audience.


This was a time for the team to become better participants or facilitators in design sprint methodologies. Real or hypothetical projects could be brought and the whole team would practice methods – often pulled from Google’s Design Sprint Framework.


This session helped us stay up-to-date on UX best practices, industry inspiration, or new considerations. Folks would share articles, tools, case studies, or experiences that could be applicable to our practices.


Being part of a larger company, we had the opportunity to have guest speakers from our product org or from elsewhere in NBCU talk to us about their work and how it overlaps or impacts us.


As we were frequently adding team members, we carved out a meeting to better get to know each other and actively support team morale. This could be anything from a creative session to games or activities.


Everyone had a chance to get visibility and review recent projects or get feedback on in-progress work.

Finally, I ran a series of goal setting sessions to help define who we wanted to be as a design team.

Annual Goals

Annual goal setting had been a practice, but it seemed more important than ever that we create a path to executing on achievable and stretch goals. We looked at what type of collaborators we wanted to be, how we could be drivers in accessibility or discovery, to building trust as strategic thought-leaders within the company. Each goal was mapped to a set of tasks that could help us on our way.

Design Operations

We also had brainstorming sessions around what tools and templates we should have in our design toolkit to better our ability to collaborate with product or engineering, to support our design practices, and to assist with onboarding new people. We voted on prioritization and began building a better operating structure for our team.

Finding better ways to support team health is such a core part of being a manager.

In addition to 1:1s and supporting individual people on their career paths, we should constantly be nurturing an environment that is encouraging, challenging, and inspiring.