Tag Archives: small project

PMR Interview: Small Projects

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.

In July, Project Management Review (PMR, in China) published an interview with me, covering seven topics. The interview appeared in their online magazine, their paper magazine, and in PM World Journal. This interview topic is about Small Projects.

PMR: You’ve mentioned that the secret weapon of high-performing project teams is small projects. What is the logic behind this statement?

For many organizations, small projects are an invisible 20-35% of their entire annual expenses. Funding usually comes from an operations budget, and staffing is based not on prioritized portfolios, but instead, on ‘who isn’t doing anything important right now?’ Most organizations don’t even have a definition of what constitutes a small project, or apply a consistent approach for identifying, prioritizing, delivering, and evaluating their success.

I noted this in the early 1980s, as I was coaching my clients to develop portfolios of their projects. I saw, in the most-advanced organizations, including global businesses and government agencies at national and local levels, an understanding that small projects needed different treatment than larger ones. For example, they often solved symptoms, rather than spending the time to understand underlying causes. Many times, the same symptoms occurred dozens of times before finally, someone would realize it was far too expensive to continue doing repetitive ‘quick fixes.’ Then, they would finally understand the root cause, and permanently cure the problem.

I defined a taxonomy of project sizes, and surveyed my clients for the relative delivery efficiency of project results across those sizes. The analysis for each project size was very interesting:

  • Small projects were the least efficient and least effective way to deliver project results.
  • Very large projects, with multiple years of duration and more than 24 people on multiple project teams, were next-least efficient way to deliver results. (We did not have programs in our survey.)
  • Large projects, six months to a year in duration, and one to three teams, were significantly more efficient that were very large projects, and faced lower risk.
  • Medium projects, three to six months in duration, and having three to seven half-time team members, were the most efficient way to deliver project results.

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Is Project Management Strategic?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
On the surface, this is one of those questions with an obvious answer: Of Course It Is! However, the question goes much deeper than that, and deserves more exploration. The topic came up in a discussion with a friend and associate, Alex Jalalian (hailing from Iran and Canada) at last Fall’s IPMA Council of Delegates meeting. Alex is studying for a Doctorate in Strategic Project Management. While I encouraged him in his pursuit, the question came up: What books, research, and indeed, published practices support such a discipline?

One source that came to mind was the Cleland/Ireland book, Project Management, Strategic Design and Implementation (Fifth Edition). One reason we like this book is its span of the topic, from high-level strategic positioning down to the details of steps and relationships of successful projects. But perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Are Project Managers Strategic?
That is a different question than the one above. While strategic vision and thinking must occur in the project environment for project performance to be maximized, that thinking may not necessarily come from the Project Manager (PM). Sometimes it is best if it does not, such as in cases of massive organizational transformation. In that case, the Strategic Vision, and drive for change should be managed by a Sponsoring group, who will reinforce the vision and sustain the change, once the PM goes off to another series of projects.

Some Project Managers are strategic, and some are not. This depends to some extent on their preferred style, the size of projects, the nature of the projects, whether others in the organization take on the role, the training of the individual, the rewards received for demonstrating needed traits, and whether the PM is even capable of doing so. We believe the answer to this question is that some are, some are not. Perhaps a more important question is, can your Project Manager be strategic, when needed? Continue reading

Managing Small Projects

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
Happy 09/09/09!
This blog posting was prompted by an article provided to IPMA-USA by Curt Finch, What Mismanaging Small Projects Will Cost You. My “to do” list has had this topic on it for quite some time, so I am glad Curt brought it up. Curt is CEO of Journyx, and his article is great; see it here.

What Is a Small Project?
I have asked this question for over 24 years in kicking off one of my workshops, Small Project Management (also named Managing Small Projects). The first time I asked the question in a class was at an Aerospace/Defense company, and a grizzled old Engineer said, Sonny, a Small Project is anything less than a Billion Dollars”. Continue reading