Is project management scalable enough?

by Shawn Belling

One of the things I’ve been saying about project management for a very long time is that it needs to be able to scale down. Over the long term, senior leadership’s collective knock on project management as a business discipline or competency is “this is too much administration – can’t we just get to work?”

As well, people who have occasional project management duties as part of their job (see “other duties as assigned”) look at massive templates or methodology documents and are overwhelmed – they cannot connect that ten-page risk management planning template to their 250-hour project. This is a reasonable concern and one that not all in-house project methodologies take into account.

The key is scaling down. Take the example of some of the communications plans that I have seen throughout my career. The examples I am thinking of are perfect for an academic application of displaying the perfect communication plan – detailed, comprehensive, workmanlike communications plans. These are also useful when an organization is trying to establish a baseline for project management practice. However, in actual usage on the smaller projects, many organizations would apply these to, they would be way too heavy – the very definition of administrative overload.

Scaling these communications plans down to fit the size of the project and the engagement levels and capacities of the project team and stakeholders is critical. It is key to bridging the gap between a perfect and comprehensive communications plan that will not be used (because it is way too heavy), to one that is effective and readily used by the team and the stakeholders, because it is scaled to the size of the project.

The same is true for risk management plans and processes, Work Breakdown Structure development, and any other process in project management: Don’t build or force usage of process or tools that are too much, too detailed for the size and type of project you are running.

It is far better to have simple and usable project management document templates and process that are actually used than detailed, perfect, but too complicated templates and processes that are avoided and not used. Scale these accordingly!


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