March 17

Manager’s Guide to Effective Dashboard Design: Utilizing Design Thinking and Persona Design Methods for Behavioral Change and Business Outcomes

The Dangers of Excluding Managers from the Dashboard Design Process and the Importance of Their Seat at the Data Table

Often, organizations view dashboard design as a purely technical task and exclude managers from the process, assuming they lack the technical expertise to contribute. This exclusion leads to a range of problems, including:

a. Misalignment with business goals: Dashboards created without input from managers may not align with the organization’s goals, leading to irrelevant or ineffective visualizations that don’t support decision-making.

b. Limited understanding of user needs: Without a manager’s perspective, dashboard designers may not have a clear understanding of the target users’ needs, goals, and pain points, resulting in a dashboard that doesn’t cater to its intended audience.

c. Lack of actionable insights: Without managerial input, dashboards may focus too much on data visualization and not enough on driving behavioral change and supporting business outcomes.

d. Disconnection from decision-making: Managers who don’t feel they have a seat at the data table may be less likely to utilize dashboards for decision-making, reducing the effectiveness of the dashboard as a tool for driving business success.

e. Lack of adoption: When managers are not involved in the dashboard design process, they may be less likely to adopt and promote the use of the dashboard within their teams, reducing its overall impact on the organization.

f. Missed opportunities: By not involving managers, organizations miss out on valuable insights and perspectives that could enhance the dashboard’s effectiveness in driving behavioral change and supporting business outcomes.

The Importance of Managers’ Involvement in Dashboard Design

Involving managers in the dashboard design process is essential to create tools that drive meaningful change and support the organization’s strategic objectives. Some key reasons for managers’ involvement include:

a. Ensuring alignment with corporate goals: Managers understand their department’s objectives and can help ensure that the dashboard supports these goals and the broader organizational strategy.

b. Facilitating user adoption: When managers are invested in the design process, they are more likely to promote the use of the dashboard within their teams, fostering a data-driven culture and driving the desired behavioral changes.

c. Enhancing the dashboard’s effectiveness: Managers’ understanding of their team’s needs and challenges enables them to contribute valuable insights that can improve the dashboard’s design and effectiveness in supporting decision-making and driving action.

Empowering Managers to Take an Active Role in Dashboard Design

To maximize the benefits of managers’ involvement in the dashboard design process, organizations should:

a. Provide training and support: Equip managers with the knowledge and skills they need to actively contribute to the dashboard design process, including an understanding of data visualization best practices and design thinking principles.

b. Foster a collaborative environment: Encourage open communication and collaboration between managers, business analysts, data professionals, and other stakeholders to ensure the dashboard meets the needs of all users and supports the organization’s strategic goals.

c. Establish clear roles and responsibilities: Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder in the dashboard design process, ensuring that managers have a seat at the data table and a voice in the development of the dashboard.

Moving Beyond Data Visualization – Focusing on Behavioral Change and Business Outcomes

Debunking the “Data Visualization” Misconception

The term “data visualization” can be misleading, as it suggests that the primary purpose of a dashboard is to present data visually. While effective visualization is important, it’s essential to understand that the true value of a dashboard lies in its ability to drive behavioral change and support business outcomes. Managers should approach dashboard design with this mindset, focusing on how visualizations can help align their teams with corporate goals and drive better decision-making.

Data Visualization vs. Behavioral Change

Data visualization is an essential aspect of dashboard design, as it allows users to understand complex information quickly and easily. However, focusing solely on data visualization can lead to a misconception that dashboards are only for technical people. What’s far more important is the ability of dashboards to drive behavioral change and support business outcomes. Managers should prioritize the following aspects when designing dashboards:

a. Clear alignment with corporate goals: Ensure that the dashboard supports the organization’s objectives and helps users make data-driven decisions that contribute to achieving these goals.

b. Actionable insights: Design the dashboard to provide clear insights that guide users towards taking specific actions in line with the defined business goals.

c. User engagement: Create dashboards that encourage users to explore the data and ask questions, fostering a data-driven culture within the organization.

Ensuring Managers Have a Seat at the Data Table

To create dashboards that drive behavioral change and support business outcomes, managers must have a seat at the data table. Here are some strategies to ensure that managers are actively involved in the dashboard design process:

a. Communicate business objectives: Clearly articulate the goals and objectives that the dashboard must support to ensure alignment with corporate strategy. By providing this context, managers can help dashboard designers focus on the most critical aspects of the business.

b. Define the target audience: Identify the specific user groups that will interact with the dashboard, and help develop detailed personas to guide the design process. By understanding the needs and preferences of their teams, managers can ensure that the dashboard is tailored to the target audience.

c. Provide feedback on prototypes: Actively participate in the design process by reviewing prototypes, suggesting improvements, and ensuring that the dashboard meets the needs of their team. Managers should be encouraged to collaborate with designers and share their insights on how the dashboard can be optimized for their specific use cases.

d. Collaborate with stakeholders: Work closely with team members, business analysts, and data professionals to identify key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics that align with the organization’s strategic objectives.

e. Set clear expectations: Clearly communicate the goals of the dashboard to the design team, ensuring that they understand the desired outcomes and actions the dashboard should support.

Demystifying Data Visualization for Managers

Data visualization is not just for technical experts. Managers play a vital role in shaping the design and implementation of dashboards that drive behavioral change and support business outcomes. By understanding the fundamentals of data visualization, managers can contribute meaningfully to the design process and ensure that the resulting dashboards are both effective and user-friendly.

a. Familiarize Yourself with Visualization Types: Take time to learn about the different types of visualizations available, such as bar charts, line charts, pie charts, and heatmaps. Understand their strengths and weaknesses, and when it is most appropriate to use each type. The Dashboard Wireframe Kit can aid in this.

b. Focus on Clarity and Simplicity: When designing dashboards, prioritize clarity and simplicity in the visualizations. This approach will make it easier for users to interpret the data and draw insights that drive decision-making and behavioral change.

c. Embrace Interactivity: Encourage the use of interactive elements in dashboards, such as filters, sliders, and drill-down capabilities. These features allow users to explore the data in more depth and ask questions, fostering a data-driven mindset within the organization.

Utilizing Design Thinking and Persona Design Methods

Design thinking and persona design methods provide a human-centric approach to dashboard design that helps managers focus on behavioral change and business outcomes. These methods involve:

a. Empathizing with users: Understand the needs, goals, and pain points of the target audience by developing detailed personas. This process enables the creation of dashboards that are tailored to the users’ specific requirements.

b. Ideating and prototyping: Generate multiple dashboard design concepts and create prototypes to test with users. This iterative approach allows managers to refine the design based on user feedback and ensure it meets their needs.

c. Implementing and iterating: Deploy the dashboard within the organization and continuously monitor its effectiveness. Gather feedback from users and make necessary adjustments to improve the dashboard’s ability to drive behavioral change and support business outcomes.

Fostering a Data Culture and Advancing Data Literacy

One of the most critical aspects of ensuring the effective use of dashboards and the implementation of data-driven decision-making processes is fostering a data culture within an organization. A data culture is an environment where employees at all levels understand the value of data, are data literate, and actively use data to make informed decisions. To create this culture, managers must encourage a mindset that values evidence-based decision-making, collaboration, and continuous learning.

Advancing data literacy is crucial for developing a data culture. Data literacy refers to the ability to read, understand, analyze, and communicate with data. This skill set is essential for employees to interpret the information presented in dashboards effectively and use it to make well-informed decisions. Managers should invest in data literacy training and provide resources to help employees build their data-related skills. Encourage your team members to ask questions, explore data, and share insights with one another. This collaborative approach will not only improve individual data literacy but also foster a collective understanding of the organization’s data and its potential impact on business outcomes.

Creating a data-driven environment also requires breaking down silos and promoting cross-functional collaboration. Managers should encourage open communication and the sharing of data insights across departments. This collaborative approach allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the organization’s data landscape and ensures that valuable insights are not confined to individual teams. Encourage the use of dashboards as a platform for communication, where team members can share their insights, ask questions, and provide feedback. This will enable employees to learn from one another and develop a more profound understanding of how their work contributes to the organization’s overarching goals.

Practical Steps for Managers to Design and Implement Dashboards that Drive Behavioral Change and Support Business Outcomes

Define Clear Objectives and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

The first step in designing a dashboard that drives behavioral change and supports business outcomes is to define clear objectives and KPIs. Work with stakeholders to identify the critical metrics that align with the organization’s strategic goals. Ensure that these KPIs are measurable, actionable, and relevant to the target audience.

Develop Detailed User Personas

Creating detailed user personas helps managers understand the needs, goals, and challenges of their target audience. This understanding is crucial for designing a dashboard that caters to their specific requirements and drives behavioral change. Gather information about the users’ roles, responsibilities, and expectations to develop accurate personas that guide the dashboard design process.

Design the Dashboard with the End User in Mind

Keep the user personas in mind throughout the dashboard design process. Focus on creating a user-friendly interface that is easy to navigate, provides relevant information at a glance, and supports the user’s decision-making process. Consider factors such as layout, color schemes, and data visualization formats to ensure the dashboard is visually appealing and easy to understand.

Collaborate with Data Professionals and Business Analysts

Managers should collaborate with data professionals and business analysts to ensure the dashboard accurately represents the defined KPIs and business goals. Data professionals can help clean, transform, and aggregate the data to support the required visualizations, while business analysts can provide insights into the relationships between data points and the desired outcomes.

Test and Iterate

An essential aspect of dashboard design is testing and iterating. Conduct user testing sessions with the target audience to gather feedback on the dashboard’s usability, functionality, and effectiveness in driving behavioral change. Use this feedback to refine the design and ensure the dashboard meets the needs of its users.

Monitor and Optimize

Once the dashboard is deployed, monitor its usage and impact on decision-making and business outcomes. Gather feedback from users on an ongoing basis and use this information to make necessary adjustments and improvements. Continuously optimize the dashboard to ensure it remains relevant, effective, and aligned with the organization’s evolving goals and objectives.

Case Studies and Best Practices: Successful Dashboard Implementations Driving Behavioral Change and Supporting Business Outcomes

In this final part of our four-part series, we will explore case studies and best practices from organizations that have successfully implemented dashboards that drive behavioral change and support business outcomes. We will examine the challenges they faced, the strategies they employed, and the lessons they learned along the way.

Case Study 1: Retail Company – Sales Performance Dashboard

Challenge: A large retail company was struggling to track sales performance across various store locations and product categories. The existing dashboards were cluttered, difficult to understand, and not aligned with the company’s strategic goals.

Solution: The company involved managers from different departments in the dashboard design process, ensuring that the new dashboard was aligned with the organization’s objectives. They utilized design thinking and persona design methods to create a user-friendly dashboard focused on driving behavioral change among the sales team.

Outcome: The new sales performance dashboard led to increased data-driven decision-making, improved sales performance, and better alignment of the sales team with the company’s strategic goals.

Best Practices:

  1. Involve cross-functional teams in the dashboard design process.
  2. Utilize design thinking and persona design methods to create user-friendly dashboards.
  3. Continuously monitor and optimize the dashboard based on user feedback.

Case Study 2: Healthcare Organization – Patient Satisfaction Dashboard

Challenge: A healthcare organization wanted to improve patient satisfaction levels but had no effective means of measuring and tracking the relevant KPIs.

Solution: The organization’s managers worked closely with data professionals and business analysts to develop a patient satisfaction dashboard. The dashboard was designed with the end user in mind, focusing on the key metrics that would drive behavioral change among the staff and support the organization’s goals.

Outcome: The patient satisfaction dashboard led to improved patient satisfaction levels and increased staff awareness of the importance of patient-centered care.

Best Practices:

  1. Define clear objectives and KPIs that align with the organization’s goals.
  2. Develop detailed user personas to guide the dashboard design process.
  3. Collaborate with data professionals and business analysts to ensure accurate data representation.


Throughout this article, we have highlighted the importance of involving managers in the dashboard design process, discussed practical steps for designing and implementing dashboards that drive behavioral change and support business outcomes, and explored successful case studies and best practices.

By incorporating design thinking and persona design methods, and fostering a collaborative environment that includes managers, organizations can create effective dashboards that not only provide valuable insights but also drive meaningful action and support strategic objectives.

Nicholas Kelly



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