When you don’t have a Project Manager

The projects the designers on my team are working on are ones that don’t have a person whose full time job it is to Project Manage. This means that the job falls to different people. In the past, this job has fallen onto a designer, often as a second full time job. Over time, I’ve taken steps to make sure that doesn’t happen. After all, designers still need to design. Here’s the current way I’m approaching it.

Starting a project when you don’t have a full time Project Manager:

  1. When a project gets identified as a priority, the designer assigned to it spends some time understanding the problem and fully wrapping their head around it through exploration, research, etc.
  2. The designer writes out a list of user flows: all the things the user will be able to do when the first version of the project ships.
  3. The designer shares this list with the devs and they both iterate on it until everyone is in agreement and feels a shared sense of ownership over the project.
  4. The list then gets posted where everyone can see it and Github issues are made for each item in the flow, along with any corresponding dev tasks that are needed to support the flow. This provides a solid baseline and can help when issues “pop up” in the middle of design and dev cycles. The designers and devs can work together to decide if each one is worth adding to this release or the punting to the next.

Designs get added to issues, are iterated on with dev feedback, PRs are made, and as the product area comes to life, it can be tested. (The original list of user stories also makes for a great test plan.) Repeat a few times and ship it!

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