Toward a Consistent Approach to Project Management

Large and small projects clearly present very different challenges in terms of project planning and management. A small project may be nearly indistinguishable from ongoing operational work. There is a temptation to skip the planning process, especially if similar work has already been completed. Work often goes ahead with little attention paid to control procedures, communication, and documentation. In contrast, large projects can be overwhelmingly complex. It is taken for granted that they call for detailed plans outlining many activities and tasks. Stakeholders may be numerous and communication/reporting requirements onerous.

However, the many differences between them, undertaking projects of widely varied scale and scope calls for embracing a core methodology and applying it to every project. Adhering to a consistent planning and management approach on any project no matter how large or small goes a long way toward ensuring consistent success and dependable quality.

Different-sized projects do not necessarily call for radically different planning and management methodologies. There is a tendency for organizations to undertake small projects as if they were operational tasks. Work moves ahead without the planning steps and control measures employed for large projects. It is true that small projects have fewer variables and involve lower resource expenditure, seemingly indicating a greater potential for successful completion and lower risk. However, size does not always correlate with risk. Some small projects may carry hidden risks or go simply out of control and become very costly. Small projects do fail.

It is best for managers to adopt a scalable project management methodology, know it thoroughly, then adjust it as needed per project. The first component of any such method is a clearly defined set of macro-level project management and control procedures. These should be developed and communicated to all project planning staff. The procedures must be general enough to be universal across projects regardless of size. This framework provides an organized approach to any project along with common ground for communication.

One of the earliest steps outlined in the set of universal procedures would be the creation of a detailed Project Definition Plan for each project. This deliverable includes project overview and objectives, an outline of processes with tasks listed and dependencies noted, and a delineation of the roles and responsibilities of each team member.

The applicability of a macro-level management framework with components that are then adapted to the needs of individual projects is in no way dependent on project size. And it is not difficult, since the process is easily replicable via the use of software-based, guides, templates, and tools. The most important and elusive factor is the organizational will required to closely adhere to a pre-determined project planning and management methodology regardless of project size.