In Praise of Project Managers

Project managers are the unsung heroes of the team.

Who is consistently the last one to leave at the end of the day? Who updates tasks and tickets just before they tuck in for the night? Who makes sure the team has the information and assets it needs to do the best work possible? Who always eats lunch by the cold, white glow of their monitor? You can probably guess who I'm referring to.

My favorite project managers have been advocates for designers. They’ve striven to understand a designer’s reasoning in order to represent and defend the work to the client. Conversely, they’ve striven to understand the client’s requirements and have sorted out the details at every stage before the design team’s involvement. They’ve clarified confusing feedback, they’ve considered any possible implications and ramifications of the feedback, and, most importantly, they’ve provided a clear and concise list of actionable items at each stage.

A project manager’s role is one of the most important in an organization as it’s often the project manager who has the most contact with a client. They must be a natural diplomat. If they simply acquiesce in all their dealings with a client, they’ll create friction with the internal team. If they fight too hard for the internal team, they risk alienating the client. It’s a fine line a project manager must walk.

Referring to my previous post, the best project managers have established processes that make their lives, and the lives of their team easier. They’ve created work flows, ticketing and project code systems, and feedback methods that a team, including freelancers, can easily follow. In other words, “organization” is a project manager’s middle name.

Understanding requirements, advocating for designers, providing relevant and accurate feedback, and establishing a concise process to facilitate all of the above. These are a few of the things we, as designers, appreciate about a project manager. So to all of the project managers out there: We salute you. Your dedication to the team is what makes our lives easier and our design work the best it can be.