As a Product Designer at Harvest, part of my role is running projects. While I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to manage projects, I do think there are some methods that can yield better results. I’m hardly an expert in this area, but I’d like to share some of the ways I find success in managing projects.
I should mention that these thoughts are my own. I’m extremely blessed to work for a company that gives some freedom as to how individuals run projects. Of course there are some fixed variables. For example, we all use Basecamp for tracking updates, and follow the same guidelines for communicating updates with other teams within Harvest.
I don’t really have some profound wisdom to share. Basically, I try to stay out of the way as much as possible, leaving room for my teammates to get their work done. Their time, much like mine, is valuable. Out of respect, I try not to gum up the works with unnecessary meetings or emails. This doesn’t mean I’m out of the loop. We’re all generally aware of what the other person is working on.
In preparation for the Kickoff, I prefer creating a Google Doc with the project details rather than a slideshow. It’s much easier to review and edit on the fly. I also don’t have to get hung up on the little things like does this slide look pretty.
Typically, I keep the Kickoff to 30 minutes or less. This isn’t the place to figure out technical or design decisions. We still might kick around some ideas and ask questions, but typically we breakout into smaller groups as needed. My preference is to have the Kickoff the Friday before the project starts. This allows my distributed team to hit the ground running first thing Monday morning.
Once a week, our team will meet over a Google Hangout for about 20–30 minutes to discuss updates. We don’t necessarily try to solve problems in these meetings unless they’re quick and easy to figure out. The goal of these hangouts is to make sure we’re all on the same page throughout the course of the project.
Daily Slack Check-in
Simply put, I hate unnecessary meetings, and find that most others do too. They disrupt the flow of my work day, and I suspect they do for others too. I prefer daily check-ins on Slack because it’s asynchronous. It allows my to get updates as breaks occur naturally throughout my day. I ask teammates to write a one- or two-sentence update. Basically what are you working on and is anything blocking you from completing it. Short and sweet.
Of course, if something is pressing or I’m blocking a todo from progressing, I ask my teammates to @ me, so that I get an immediate notification.
I know some people are into multiple email check-ins throughout the week (such as Basecamp’s automated check-ins). Personally, I dislike these—primarily because it feels like extra clutter in my inbox.
Todos on Basecamp
Previously I mentioned we all use Basecamp at Harvest. I hold my teammates responsible for making todos, and keeping related discussions up-to-date. That means a developer may create multiple todos for building out a feature or creating a todo for me to apply some design polish.
That’s the bulk of it. Of course there are little things here and there that I didn’t go over, but this should give you a glimpse into how I manage projects.