Big Projects vs. Small Projects

Big Projects vs. Small Projects

Project management as a discipline has gained wide acceptance across all industries, companies and cultures.  But companies fail to realize that “one size does not fit all” when it comes to successfully planning and managing projects.  There are some key differences between managing small departmental types of projects and large enterprise-wide projects.  What is amazing is that as project managers we tend to approach projects the same when we need to bring in the "big guns" to plan and manage a large project effectively.  Here are some thoughts to consider…

Small projects tend to be self limiting:  They usually stay within one functional group and compared to larger, multi-disciplinary projects are much easier to plan, manage and control.  This is not to say that a small project can't be complex.  They are often technically very complex and the team tends to focus on how to conquer the technological challenge rather than focusing on what the business value is in terms of dollars.  In addition, because small projects tend to stay within the boundaries of a functional discipline, project authority is usually not an issue.  The project manager’s “sponsor” is often the manager or executive of the department which means all required resources report up the same channel. Resource conflicts are quickly identified and resolved.

Root cause of project failure:  The most telling attribute is the root cause of project failure.  With small projects, the root cause is often lack of effective project management skills.  Targeted training to specific roles (sponsors, project leads, teams, support staff) is the solution to improve knowledge and skills. However with large projects, the root cause is often the lack of project management infrastructure that supports project managers, establishes gates and controls and provides the project manager with the appropriate level of authority to manage resources that don't report directly to them. Training alone doesn't adequately address infrastructure issues. 

Successful implementation of project management requires a holistic approach.  It requires commitment at a high level within the organization to projectize business initiatives and provides an infrastructure to identify, plan, manage and control them as projects approved to achieve specific business objectives.   Infrastructure combined with targeted training consistently yields the desired end results.

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