You have heard me say that all organizations have projects. It is true. Projects are not just an "IT thing" and they are not a "big company" thing. The term "project" simply refers to a way to categorize work that has certain characteristics - start and end date, builds one or more deliverables, unique, etc. Once you understand you have a project, there are certain techniques and processes that can be applied to manage the work more effectively.
When the projects are large, they need to be managed with formal project management discipline. But many projects are not large. They are small work efforts that need to be organized and managed efficiently, but not with the full rigor and structure of formal project management discipline. These projects represent the vast majority of all work executed in businesses all over the world.
Let's be realistic. Most people that manage these type of small projects are not formal project managers. They don't need to be professional project managers and generally they don't want to be professional project managers. However, they can still benefit from understanding some basic project management discipline. Since their projects are generally small, they don't need to learn all the formal techniques. They just need to learn how to better manage small projects.
Let me give you some examples of small project discipline.
Planning. Projects should be planned before they are started. Planning just means that you understand what you are trying to produce, the due date, budget constraints, who else is assigned, etc. Does this sound like big project management overhead? I hope not. These are just simple questions to answer up front so that you know what you are doing and what is expected of you.
Schedule. Do you need a schedule tool to manage a small project? Heck no! A checklist of activities is fine, or perhaps a spreadsheet, or perhaps just a piece of paper with tasks listed. This is not overhead. This is just organizing the work. I would expect any professional to be able to logically lay out the activities required to complete the work. You should have this expectation as well.
Issues. You are not going to practice formal issues management. However, if a problem occurs on the project, it would be nice if the project manager could recognize the nature of the problem and had some basic problem-solving techniques.
Communication. When I give small projects to my staff I ask them to send me an email update at the end of each week with an overall status, and a validation that they can still meet the end date. This is pretty minimal. Hopefully you are not accused of micro-managing just because you would like the person to check in with you periodically.
Quality. You don't want your staff to deliver junk to you - even if it is a small project. So, they have to have some understanding of what constitutes a decent quality result. Producing work of acceptable quality is the extent of quality management on a small project.
I hope you get the picture. You are all managers. You assign small projects to your staff all the time. You don't necessarily need the small project staff to be formal project managers. But you would still like them to get the work done on time, within budget (if any) and of acceptable quality.
Clear as mud? We have classes that teach non-project managers how to better manage these typical small projects. If you have an interest in further discussions. by Tom.Mochal