This insight generally describes an argument that the C-level position is not the best place for designers to lead design, that there are too many matters and practices that impact design’s effectiveness in the company, too many so-called ‘distractions’. The term effectiveness was purposefully chosen instead of efficiency, following a classic definition the effectiveness is about doing the right things, while efficiency is about doing things right. There is a component to this insight which is cited by a few designers, that being in the C-suite stops them from being ‘close to the ground’, and from ‘crafting their practice’. A few also used this insight to question if it was needed for a designer to be at this level to be effective, and thus spurring a large conversation about models of design leadership (centralized v. distributed, autonomous v. integrated, informal v. formal power).
The consensus from interviews and the data from the surveys points towards a correlation between being in the C-Suite with being able to model the direction, format the action, impact the deliverables and results of design in a different way, a more effective way. The arguments that design management at the C-Suite level stop designers from being more hands-on in design is similar to many other professions, and it is above all a matter of choice by those that agree to embrace the managerial route in large corporations.
All that we have learned in this research is that, as long as we agree on the definition of effectiveness, that of producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect, then being a member of the TMT focused on design’s priorities, plans and impact cannot be deemed as not effective, that being the case would require explanation on why is design different from any other areas in the corporation that are represented in the C-suite. Designers that prefer to stay a few levels distanced from the C-suite because they believe this is a more effective way to manage design might be confusing their love for the craft of design with what is really better for design and for the corporation itself, if such a designer does not understand that the activities of the TMT impact the effectiveness of design and require the presence of design (and designer) to discuss, prioritize, define and budget design, then perhaps this designer is not the right designer for this job.
Yes, there may be lot of ‘distractions’ in the C-Suite, in many cases very focused on a certain type of discussions (quantitative and short termism), and quite often complex (systems) and hard to deal with (divestments), but if design (and designers) want to be a part of the solution, they need to embrace being a part of this team, accepting all that comes with it, perhaps engaging in changing how the C-Suite works from inside.