Experience Engineering

The “Know’s” and “No’s” of Design Project Management

Anish Philip John

March 23rd, 2023

Project Management in itself is a complex task with all the unknowns that need to be factored in whilst working on a project plan (and hoping to God that all goes as per plan). Now add to this the flavor of design project management – since design is at most times very subjective in nature. Revisions are bound to be more. Iterations are bound to be more. 

Thus, schedule slippages are bound to be more. So what can one do to try and minimize or mitigate this RISK?

There is no one size fits all answer for this question. But over the last decade or so that I have been managing, specifically design, projects, there are a few things that have worked well for me (some of these I learnt the hard way!)

The 3 “Know”s !

  • Know your customer

First golden rule is to know exactly who the stakeholders are in the project. Who makes the decisions, who influences decisions, who influences the influencers of the decision makers – vicious cycle. The more information you have, the better. One can never predict when this information will come in handy – this might just be your saving grace one fine deadline day morning.

  • Know your project

The next point, one would think is Duh. Of course, you should know the project. Well, I mean, really know the project scope. The devil is always in the details. In a design project, scope creeps are very easy, which makes it uber easy for a new feature, a new module, a new screen or a new flow to suddenly make it into your final designs. The more you know today, the less you need to worry about tomorrow.

  • Know your team

It is oh-so-important to know your team members. Sometimes it is important to know what makes them tick in order to know how to make them click (I’m a poet, and I didn’t even know it!). There are multiple fine reads online on how to be a good manager, servant master leadership style and so on. But for any of these leadership styles to work, the fundamental prerequisite is that you “know” your team.

The 3 “No”s !

  • No Setting Wrong Expectations

Expectation setting is the key element to project management. It is very important for your client to know what they should expect from you. It is even more important for your client to know what they should not expect from you. If this is made clear at the outset and reinforced as well a couple of times midway through the lifecycle of your project, you should have a smooth sail.

  • No Going Incommunicado

As a Project Manager, you are the client’s go-to-person. In most cases, you might be their single point of contact. This simply means that you should be available to the client for any of their queries. Exigencies are a part of life, but it would be in your best interest to keep your client informed of when they can and when they can’t reach you, and if there is a replacement during your absence.

  • No “I” in Team

One of the most important roles of any project manager is to be the knight in shining armor for his/her team. Defend your team. Protect your team. They call the PM role a thankless job, because when something good happens, it’s the job of the PM to sing praises of the team. When something bad happens, it’s the job of the PM to defend and protect that same team. Yes, at the end, also ensure the frequency of goods are much higher than the bads.

There is no one recipe for success for design project management, every project will be a learning experience. I’ve been doing this for a decade or so, and am still learning from every single project.

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