Leading in an Agile Environment

Role: Lead UX/UI Designer

I accepted the role of Lead UX Designer for a large online ordering platform a year into the project. I had been on agile projects before, but this was my first continuous improvement continuous deployment project. It brought its own list of pros and cons. When I took over the role there were six teams, six designers, and 80 people in various roles dedicated to the program. My main role as UX Lead was to solve problems and fill in gaps. My primary tasks were to:

  1. Resolve any blockers
  2. Review and approve all work
  3. Troubleshoot any issues related to UX or UI
  4. Provide coverage during vacations and staff changes
  5. Mentoring six designers 

There was a great deal of problems to solve that revolved around design operations. I remember sitting at the first retro and feeling completely overwhelmed, that I had taken on way more than I could chew. These were the main problems that came up.

  1. Lack of awareness and collaboration
  2. Lack of due dates
  3. Lack of consistency and/or patterns

I was able to improve all three of these issues. Each program retro continued to improve until we got the point where our retros were small reminders, lots of kudos, and moving on to concerns that the industry hasn’t addressed yet.

  • The following are the main initiatives that I used to change the process and culture of the design team and the rest of the team’s perception of us.
  • Design System and Pattern Library
  • Designers integrated to Jira
  • Each designer had their own team to support instead of being feature-based
  • Due dates (yes, this was a new concept to everyone)
  • Spec sheets and interaction notes
  • Celebrating the courage to share and fail
  • Workshops with developers

All of these changes took time, trial and error.

The advantages of the project being CICD was that if something did not resonate with users we could have it updated by the end of the day. We averaged eight deployments a day. I also found that we could be leaner with the research because we had additional tools besides Google Analytics to measure customer satisfaction. The project also had the benefit of very vocal customers.