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When you mention methodology to many project managers, their eyes roll upward as if to say “Oh no, something else to get in the way of getting my project done on time.” All project managers use a methodology. The term just refers to the processes, procedures, templates and practices you use to manage your project. One of the reasons why project management methodology is not utilized as effectively as it should be has to do with scalability, or utilizing the right amount of structure and process based on the size of the project.
Use Lighter Processes on Small Projects
On small projects, you can get by with very light project management. For example:
Manage scope loosely, because the chances of receiving a scope change request are small, and the impact to the project is typically just incremental.
Risk management is minimal since small project generally are not very risky.
Schedule management is easy since there may only be a couple dozen (or fewer) activities.
Communication with the customer just means telling them when the work is complete.
Apply More Structure on Large Projects
Those same light and ad-hoc processes will fail miserably on large projects. Let’s say you have a project with 50 people and a five million dollar budget. You have to manage the project proactively.
Issues will arise that are too complex and too numerous to manage by the seat-of-your pants. You need more formality and structure.
Scope change on large projects is usually a given. They are also larger and more consequential. If you aren’t careful, your five million dollar project will turn into ten million by the time it is done. You need a structured approach.
You need to see risks coming and manage them, or your project will be in deep trouble. Formal risk management is needed.
Communication with your stakeholders needs to be ongoing, multi-faceted and planned ahead of time.
In other words, large projects are the time when you will be glad to have a full-featured project management methodology to rely on.
Methodology is Your Friend
The best approach is to apply scalability and common sense to your project management methodology. Your company may already have guidelines that you can use based on the project size. The basic philosophy you should follow is “large methodology for large projects – small methodology for small projects.”
Methodology is your friend. It is there to help you be successful on your project. But, keep your friend healthy – not too skinny, not too heavy. Let methodology work for you, not the other way around.