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We can all relate to the frustration of dealing with a bureaucracy. Some organizations are famous for requiring copious amounts of paperwork but are slow to give real-time access to information. They can exhaust everyone’s patience - whether it’s to obtain a building permit or permission for something very, very small by comparison.
You can encounter the same frustration if your own processes aren’t customized to fit your projects. Project management practices are not one-size-fits-all.
Take a minute to take an inventory of present or past projects. Are your project management processes always commensurate with the size and scope of the project? Have you had experience scaling processes back or up relative to the number of resources and timeline of the project? Processes designed to control a large scale, lengthy project with hundreds of resources will overwhelm a small, three-week project with a team of five.
Different organizations have different perceptions of small, medium and large project. A large project in one organization may be seen as a small project in another organization. Our scaling model is described below, but yours may be different. To ensure you have the right amount of process in place, use the following guidelines as a point of reference.
A small project employs from one to a handful of resources for three to four weeks. They are typically 250 effort hours or less. The team is tightly knit, meets daily and works in the same location. The process emphasizes near instant approvals with minimal paperwork, wide open communication where questions are answered immediately, and a high level of trust. Clients must be helped to adapt to this light version of project management process to ensure small projects are profitable for the organization.
A medium-sized project involves many cross-functional resources and lasts three to six months. These projects can be up to 2500 effort hours. Teams are most likely dispersed. The process emphasis is on ensuring everyone stays on the same page with access to real-time information, and keeping clear approvals in place. Functional managers meet weekly and focus on change control and issue management.
It takes all your process know-how to pull off a large-scale, long-term project. A large project engages dozens of people (or more) for six months to years. These projects are from 2500 hours to infinity! You will want to ensure you implement and follow-through on all processes that are part of whichever project management methodology you follow. There’s no room for shortcuts when you are dealing with large project budgets and so many dedicated resources. Large projects require formalized communication plans. Large projects also require a process for corporate governance—regular executive reviews and objective, factual status reports provided to management. As projects get very large, they are also candidates to be broken up and managed as a program.
Scaling processes to project size will save you much frustration, and enable you to efficiently drive your projects to closure time and time again!