Scale Down Your Processes to Manage Small Projects

Scale Down Your Processes to Manage Small Projects

Project management processes should be applied scalably based on the size of the project. Large projects need more rigor and structure. Small projects don’t need very much. 

Small projects cover many types of modest work efforts. In most companies, these small projects are not actually viewed as “projects” at all. Your company may call these enhancements, service requests or work orders. One reason many companies don’t consider these small efforts to be projects is because they are typically executed in the support or operations organization. In general, small projects can include the following:

  • Unique work efforts that are clearly projects but have short durations and small numbers of effort hours
  • Enhancements to existing operational processes and systems
  • Errors in operational processes that require a lot of work to fix. This may move the work from being operational or support in nature, to being a project. 
  • Small process improvements
  • Discovery or fact-finding work that may lead to a project later

These types of small work efforts are called small projects because they meet all the criteria of a project. The work is unique, has a beginning and end-date, results in the creation (or enhancement) of a deliverable, etc. It’s just that the work effort is small and so the project management processes will be small as well.

Let’s take an example of how the project management processes scale down for small projects. All projects need a schedule – even small ones. However, you are probably not going to have a rigorous process to build a schedule for a small project – including work breakdown structure, estimating activities, sequencing, critical path, etc. Small project schedules can be created more easily by mentally laying out the steps that need to be performed and the order the steps need to be performed. There are probably only one or two people involved, so it is not hard to figure out who does what. For a small project, you can use a spreadsheet, a table or even a piece of paper to document the schedule.

Other project management processes scale down as well for small projects. Communication is easier, there are fewer risks to deal with; you will have smaller problems to deal with, etc. Since the variances are small and the consequences of your actions are small, the processes you use will be minimal and light.

The bottom line is that you still use project management practices for small projects, but the processes are light and informal.