Manage Projects According to Size – and Other Factors – in Your Organization

TenStep's Method123 templates blog, reproduced for you below, provides some insight into the idea of "How Big is a Project in Your Organization?". I would like to add that there are some other key factors, also, aside from just size.

The blog post below focuses on size of project as a determining factor for how formally you will manage a project. It is certainly important for you and your organization to management projects "appropriately". It's kind of like using a jet engine on a motorcycle; it's completely unnecessary and overkill to use extensive project management methodology on all projects, just the same, large and small.

But there are some other factors I'd like to mention before moving on to that TenStep blog post. Here are the key factor's I'd like to consider:

  • Project impact - Some projects may be small and not take much time - but could have a big impact. There could be dependencies with other projects, or the project could have a high return. In these cases, it may not take much time, but it is important to give such projects priority to ensure they get completed properly to realize the high impact results.
  • Project risk - In addition to impact, some projects are higher risk than others. It may not be a complex project from a size standpoint, but it could have dependencies on external - or internal - factors that could make the project a risky one, worth managing closely, even if with a minimal amount of time. Thus some formality that is focused on the specific risk areas would be justified.
  • Special success factors - Like #2 above, many projects have specific success factors. In other words, something, or some set of things, much happen in order for the project to be successful. Alternatively, something, or some things, must NOT happen also in order to success to be realized. Such "success intensive" factors, which could occur in virtually any knowledge area, need to be managed closely and formally, where most other areas may be unimportant and not require much attention. this can vary from project to project.

You can find related templates to help you manage projects at

Here's the TenStep post on managing projects according to size:

Projects are not routine. They are managed differently than routine operational work. Projects have a start and end-date. There is a point in time when the work did not exist (before the project), when it does exist (the project), and when it does not exist again (after the project). This is the key determinant of whether a piece of work is a project.

Other characteristics of a project include:

  • All projects are unique. They may be similar to prior projects but they are unique in terms of time frames, resources, business environment, etc.
  • Projects result in the creation of one or more deliverable.
  • Projects have assigned resources - either full-time, part-time or both. This is reflected in a true budget or an implicit budget based on allocated resources.
  • Projects have a defined scope of work.

That being said, you need to be practical. In theory, projects can be one hour, 100 hours or 10,000 hours (or more). So, you must recognize that, although the creation of a small deliverable is a project, it does not need the structure and discipline of a much larger project. For a one-hour project, you 'just do it'. Any planning, analysis and design is all done in your head. A 100 hour project probably has too much work to plan and manage all in your head. For instance, you need to start defining the work and building a simple schedule. A 10,000 hour project needs full project management discipline.

Our model for scaling projects is to use a scale of small, medium and large. We use effort hours as the key criteria for sizing projects. This seems to be a true complexity factor. Duration is not a good factor since it varies depending upon the resources committed. For example, a 100 hour project could take 20 weeks if you can only spend five hours a week. The basic scale is as follows.

  • Small Project - less than 250 effort hours
  • Medium project - between 251 and 2500 effort hours
  • Large project - over 2500 effort hours

In your company, the effort hours for categorizing projects may be different. However, in general, smaller projects need very little rigor and structure. Larger projects need more structure.

Summary. The definition of a project covers work that could be as little as a minute. However, no organization is going to track one minute projects, or one hour projects. Even though these are all technically projects, your organization should have a minimum threshold that you use before you consider the work to be an official project. Our threshold is 250 hours. What is yours?

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