Small Projects: How To Rock Them

Filed under Cost, Grab Bag, Kanban, Schedule, Scope | Posted by PMStudent

Feeling like your small projects aren’t giving you the experience you need? ?I know where you’re coming from.

It’s how “accidental” project managers like us start out. ?Small businesses, small projects, small teams. I’ve worked in environments like this in the past, and currently?volunteer for several non-profits where this is the case. ?My activities with pmStudent fit into this category as well, smaller “mini-projects” involving just a few people or sometimes just myself.

In an environment like this, good PM can still be applied but it must be tailored to fit.

Waterfall processes with a fancy charter and project plan all the way just aren’t going to be worth the overhead involved for a week-long project. You don’t have much room for a lot of formality or overhead.

Rock Your PM Skillz Anyway

Create a checklist or excel file which will essentially be your project plan. ?This is what I did many years ago when I was working in an MIS department, and many of the projects were 1 week to 4 weeks in duration. ?I had an excel spreadsheet set up as a “1 page project plan” that also served as a status report for my stakeholders.
Tailor it to your environment, and adapt it in a continuous manner to improve it as you go.

I wrote a post just a bit ago called?Good Project Management is Common Sense that you may find useful as a starting point.

  • I start with the why,
  • then figure out the what,
  • then figure out how it will be done and who?s going to do it.
  • When comes out as a result of these things
  • and then there?s a process of iteration where we update our draft plans in light of reality including funding

One-Page Project Management

You could literally start with a template that just has fields for:

  • why (this is your charter)
  • what (scope statement, pbs/wbs/task breakdown in list format)
  • how (project plan)
  • who (resource plan)
  • a really simple schedule

The One Page Project Manager is a concept and resource very similar to what I’ve used in the past on small projects. ?Check it out!

Kanban is a paradigm I am finding extremely versatile and valuable in terms of managing work flow, so I highly recommend you look into that as well for use on small projects. ?I’m putting something together at? to share my experiences with Kanban and I’ve just learned about? which looks like an excellent new resource from some of the top people in Lean-Kanban.

If you want to gain some more knowledge about the concepts and practices on larger-scale projects (perhaps so you can scale them down to your needs) I do offer in-depth training at? as well.

For some, sticking with small projects is going to be what they want to do. ?For others, the additional challenges that come with larger projects (more stakeholders, team members, and communication channels to manage) are really what managing projects is all about.

Small, large, or anywhere in between….you can still rock.