Wikimedia Engineering/Project Lead role

The project lead role was introduced in October 2014 as an initial trial to give a single individual full accountability for each of the top priorities in a given quarter. This page, the result of an internal conversation about this role, captures the current understanding of the role and associated responsibilities.

The Project Lead will beEdit

  • Given full accountability and broad authority to drive a priority to success
  • Nearly 100% focused on the priority initiative
  • Depending on the nature of the project, can be a PM, developer, analyst, etc., but should have demonstrated broad leadership potential in the past in smaller contexts
  • Matched up with management support/coaching commensurate with level of leadership experience
  • When requested, the foundation will provide resources such as design, research, analytics, product and scrum master support if there’s no contention with high priority or mission-critical (operational) work.

Expectations of Project Lead ("mini-ED" of the project)Edit

  • Establish clear goals for the project area in the coming quarter, and how these goals are consistent with what WMF overall needs to accomplish. (What is the form of this? could be product roadmap, quantitative targets. . .)
  • Provide a longer-term view (2-3 quarters out) of work in the area
  • Determine what resources across all major functional areas (development, product management, product management, data, contracts/legal, etc.) are required to ensure the team can successfully meet the quarterly goals.
  • Responsible for assembling the team necessary to achieve project goals
  • Responsible for identifying dependencies between project team and other groups within WMF, and working with those groups to ensure project success
  • Ensure team has collaborative day-to-day working relationships, but escalate to WMF Management when appropriate
  • Establish a culture of learning, iteration, delivery, and quality within team
  • Determine metrics for success
  • Do what’s right for the user
  • Advocate on behalf of the team for additional budget or resources if that’s required for project success
  • Ensure that communications about project happens (e.g., communicate overall project status, including risks periodically throughout the quarter, or when appropriate).
  • Should have more than short term accountability -- ensure there’s documentation and a longer term maintenance plan / handover if they discontinue project leadership after a quarter
  • ...


What this role isn'tEdit

  • Sole technical decision-maker -- decisions with broad architectural implications still need community review and, if no consensus can be obtained, a tie-breaking decision by the architecture team
  • People manager -- people are “on loan” to the project lead and still report to their boss who can act to support conflict resolution and risk mitigation. Sometimes project/people leadership responsibilities may clearly overlap, but this will be usually only the case for smaller teams due to the need to fully focus on a project.

Question every project lead should answerEdit

  • Based on previous conversations, what do you recommend as the broad scope of deliverables for the time you’re working on this project in Q2?
  • Do you intend to work on this project the full quarter? If not, what time period?
  • At a minimum, what do you think needs to be accomplished during this timeframe for the work to be successful?
  • As a stretch goal, what do you think should we aim for?
  • Are there standardized or non-standard metrics that can be used consistent with the above goals to measure the project's success?
  • Do you anticipate that the project should continue as a high priority / top priority in the next quarter?
  • Other than yourself, who on the staff do you intend to collaborate with on this project?
  • Specifically, do you require the day-to-day help of
    • developers
    • operations engineers
    • designers
    • project managers
    • ScrumMasters
    • product managers
    • data analysts
    • community liaisons
    • ...