Best Practices When Managing Small and Large Projects

Learn how to manage small versus large projects, by watching this short video on project management.


Hello. I’m Jennifer Bridges, Director of Hello, welcome to our whiteboard session today on managing small versus large projects. Well, in different organizations I’ve seen this becomes like a bar room brawl. An argument not to be won by anyone, because there’s an argument how do we manage small projects versus large projects?

Then, this is where some project managers or some project management organizations get in trouble and get bad reputations because they’re trying to inflict more pain than is required in managing a project. Because sometimes, some projects don’t require as much rigor as some of the other ones.

So, today what I want to look at are some principles. There are six principles that I think that guide the small versus large projects and some things we can think about so that it guides us in managing these projects.

All right, number one, a project is a project whether it’s small or large. It’s going to have a plan for a start date and an end date. It’s going to yield a unique deliverable and you’re delivering a solution to a problem. So, no matter what, big or small, that’s what a project is. So, depending upon that, it’s critical for the organization to define the criteria for the small versus large. Because who’s to say, what are we comparing it to? It depends and it’s up to the organization to decide what small or a large is.

So, if you look at defining a small versus large by scope, is a small versus large dependent upon the scope and how big the scope is, how long it’s going to take? Is this project a couple of weeks? Is it a couple of months? Or is a multi-year project? Then the cost, is it dependent upon budget? Does it go into certain categories depending upon what budget or who funds the project?

Then, again, by resources, because some projects could have maybe one person, or a few people, or hundreds of people. So, it depends on relative to the organization, because you can’t really compare yourself to others, it’s important to define what you categorize small versus large.

Once you categorize the criteria then the life cycle is the same, because the life cycle provides the flow of how we get from beginning to end and what happens in between. So, the life cycle is the same. We’re not creating anything new there. Some life cycles that you see are planning, analysis, executing, monitoring, controlling, and then closing. So, that’s the flow. Whether it’s a small project or a large project you’re still going to get there through a flow, or a life cycle. That can be the same depending upon the small versus large.

But the rigor is different. I think here’s where people get into problems, where especially for organizations who are implementing process. Maybe there is the process patrol or the group defining the process, and then there’s the one group who’s actually using the process. Here’s where people don’t agree. But the rigor is different. So, for a small project or a large project, depending upon the criteria, we may have more rigor, depending upon the size of the project.

Then the systems and processes, it’s important, no matter if it’s small or large to have your systems and processes into place because they provide the how, the how-to’s. Depending upon the categorization that’s going to influence how you go about doing things, how many people are involved, how many steps, or how many details you’re going to go into. Remember, if something is small we don’t want to make the pain or the process more than what is required. The idea is to get things, get results done quickly.

Complexity, the complexity between small and large varies and sometimes we have in our mind that is a small is simple and a large is complex. But that’s not really true, based on my experience. Sometimes the small projects could be more complex, because it could be, depending upon what you’re doing, it could be something that’s never been implemented before.

If you’re in construction maybe it’s a new type of landscaping you’re building upon. You’re using new techniques. You’re using new building materials. Maybe it’s in a different country or somewhere. The basis of that project is different that you’ve never seen before. A large project could be simple.

A large project could be large, could have a really huge budget with a lot of resources on it. But if this is something repeatable that you’ve done many times before. You’ve got a great sound process that’s matured. You’ve got the tools, templates in place and people are really good about executing this, then it may not be so complex.

So, those are some things to remember. As a bonus, really, at the end of the project you’re providing deliverables. At the end of the project, whether it’s small or large, you are to be producing deliverables, not task. So many times we get so bogged down in the task that we don’t bring our heads up to think, “Hey, we’re actually providing deliverables, providing a solutions for this project.”

So, those are some of the guiding principles. If you find yourself in a bar room brawl in your organization or in your project team over the meaning of small versus large and the rigor or the complexity, then I say maybe using some of these guiding principles may help you out. If you need any additional tips, tools, or techniques to manage your small and large projects then visit us at

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