You’re leading a startup
The accessibility team must have an intrapreneurial mentality. Your task is to build a market for accessibility within the enterprise.
You’ll be building two very different teams
The first starter team lays the foundation by writing policies, processes and documentation — creating a market for accessibility. Then, the task becomes building the second larger team who can meet widespread market demands for expertise and monitoring.
The program director must be in alignment with the rest of the team and vice versa.
It’s very easy for a non-technical director to become misaligned with technical experts in approach to measuring and achieving results.
The frantic dash of office politics must not drive the program director. Incoherent tactics and tasks with no measurable goals will only burn out the accessibility team and drive away solid accessibility experts.
Wants to have impact over control
The team director must understand successful accessibility programs seek measurable impacts over control.
In short, this means:
- Embracing progress over perfection
- Adapting and improvising ways to measure success
- Staying in your team’s lane
Can explain the strategies and tactics
Even the team director must embrace the difference between strategic goals and tactics.
The team will operate multiple long term measurable programs and complete many series of projects in service of strategic goals.
This understanding allows your program to make progress as a unified team, report impact to leadership and show their effectiveness.
If you can’t communicate progress to leadership, your team will not seem effective or valuable to the enterprise.
Diligently uses the project management tool
There is no one right method of project management. Choose one and make it part of the team’s daily or weekly rituals.
Whether it’s an online to-do board, a workflow builder, or a physical kanban board of sticky notes, a single project management tool is central to the team’s sustained work and collaborative efforts.
The director is responsible for ensuring the team has all the tools and resources necessary to be successful, and then removes obstacles and distractions.
Keeps the vision / mission clear
It’s easy for a team to become distracted, lose focus or overextend itself.
Vision is what you want to see in the future
A vision statement answers the question: “If you could wave your magic wand and everything was fixed tomorrow? What would that look like? Can you see how your enterprise would be producing nearly perfect accessible experiences because all of your strategic goals are continuously met?”
A vision statement might be:
The vision of the accessibility team is digital experiences built for people of all abilities where it’s easy for everyone to become a customer with no barriers.
Mission is how you get there
The mission of any accessibility program is affecting and providing solutions for cultural change.
A mission statement might be:
The mission of the accessibility team is to provide strategies, policies, and expert technical guidance to help the enterprise meet everyone’s needs.
The director realigns the team if it is performing tasks mismatched with the vision or support of the mission.
Sets priorities & protects capacity
Sometimes there is an overwhelming amount of work to do, teams to contact and problems to solve.
The director is responsible for setting a clear vision but keeping the immediate scope of the mission actionable.
If the team is trying to solve all of the problems right now, they will solve none of the problems into perpetuity. The team will have a limited number of hours available to do the work required. By setting priorities, the team members feel successful with the time and talents available.
Watch for scope creep
It’s easy a simple request to sprawl into a resource intensive project beyond your vision or immediate mission.
For example, the strategic priorities could be focused on remediation of high-risk customer facing products, but an internal application team might innocently request a quick “accessibility check,” which turns into an assessment being performed and expert coaching time being pulled away from strategic priorities.
Conversations that must be okay
It’s tempting to start offering support to anyone who asks. You can’t offer sub-par support in multiple areas without potentially burning out your own team.
If your biggest risk and compliance issues are customer facing, and you’re not staffed to support employee facing applications, you’ll only damage relationships by overextending your capabilities.
The out of scope request
Protecting capacity means you’ll avoid burning out your team, which could lead to turnover and apathy, causing your program to lose the trust of the organizations who really need to listen to your message.
“I see this part of the enterprise needs technical and programmatic support, and we look forward to providing it when we are staffed with capacity. Right now, we would have to de-prioritize other high risk and compliance objectives to provide support.”
Gathers resources needed to do the work
A good leader ensures team members have tools and resources necessary to do their job, and then gets out of the way.
Likewise, a team member needs to trust it’s okay to ask for the support they need.
Escalates issues to leadership
The director needs to be the face of escalations, not individual team members. Where possible, the team director should use higher levels of leadership for escalations.
Project managers and technical experts need to build relationships with individual contributors, and it’s important they are seen as helpful resources, not as police from whom to hide.