In UX design, hierarchy does not always help you get work done

ILLUSTRATION: PETER OUMANSKI

In big organizations, it is an integral part of the process to consistently review our work, not just to continually iterate and make it better by gathering stakeholders inputs, but to eventually get our designs approved from said stakeholders to launch.

I have always been under the assumption that it was necessary to work with only the biggest stakeholders as those people have the most visibility in their org which influences success with the product when launching. This made me more conscious of feeling like I needed to work closer with these people even though they weren’t the people I was working with on a daily basis and there were other people, along with myself, who were driving the product.

I was under the assumption that that there were hard, defined roles and I had to work with certain people in order to be successful.

At Google, we have roles, but they are fluid in that people can take on different roles depending on the project and need. My manager was a product manager for one of the projects he was working on. In my project, the developer advocate is taking on PM duties and I’m working more closely with him than the “designated” PM.

One way to look at the people you work with that isn’t just role based is looking at them as drivers. Drivers can be role based or specific to the project. Either you are the driver or assisting the driver to get to a final location and in design terms, it’s working with people that will help you get your day to day work done that leads to the final product. When you reach closer to product launch, that’s when you would want to rely on the bigger stakeholders who would provide more help at this point of the process.

Don’t focus too much on hierarchy, work with whoever helps you get the work done,

I realized that where people are in the hierarchy doesn’t matter as much as the people you are working with and how you work with them. As a driver, you should:

  • Provide suggestions to solve problems
  • Be more proactive communicating and reach consensus
  • Follow up via e-mail and provide actionable items to make progress

Drivers aren’t confined to the role they are in. Regardless of title, everyone has the drive to lead a product to success. You don’t need to wait on someone to do your work and you certainly aren’t obligated to work with the person you think you have to work with, whether it be the biggest stakeholders or the “designated” person. You want to work with people who you know can directly drive the product and who help you get your work done. If you know who those people are, reach out to them!

Check out my Skillshare Course on UX Research and learn something new!

To help you get started on owning your design career, here are some amazing tools from Rookieup, a site I used to get mentorship from senior designers.

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In UX design, hierarchy does not always help you get work done was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.