Small projects are a bit of an enigma within the world of formal project management practices. In the workplace, sometimes you get loaded up with a number of small projects when you’re in between larger ones, or maybe when you have a bit of extra capacity along with larger projects. Outside of work, most of the projects you will take on (most of the ones I’ll take on, at least) will be small projects where the ‘team’ may just be you or possibly some friends/family.
Formal project management (PMI style) underserves the PM managing small projects in a number of ways:
- Administration Requirements
Organizations with a formal PM methodology can exacerbate these issues if they do not recognize the differences between large and small projects and make allowances in the project framework to account for them.
Over the next few days in this series, I’ll attempt to shed some light on the key differences between large and small projects, and offer some key tips to help keep the small projects from ganging up and overwhelming you.
It’s been a scorcher of a summer here in Kentucky so far, but I do have a few backyard projects going on right now, despite the heat. The first of these is a small vegetable garden behind the house. I’ve got many reasons for wanting to do this project, not the least of which is a desire to eat more vegetables, and simultaneously try to cut back on the amount of herbicide/pesticide/other-icide chemicals that I’m ingesting. I’m making an effort to get a bit healthier, and this is one component of that endeavor.
Watermelon and pumpkin about 2 weeks after planting
I actually built the bed that I’m now using as the garden a couple of years ago, but until now we’ve used it as a decorative flower bed with mostly annual flowers and some perennial ornamental grasses. This year, I’m attempting a sample of fruits and vegetables including: Swiss Chard, Watermelon, Pumpkin, Tomato (Rutgers heirloom), and Butternut Squash.
One plant that has really taken me by surprise is the pumpkin. I planted it from a 2 inch pot in mid-June. From the moment I planted it, it has exploded with growth! Just over a month later, there are four vines growing out of the main plant, each 10 to 15 feet in length. I think if I were to sit and watch this plant, I would actually be able to see it grow in real-time – each vine is adding close to a foot a day in length. I’ve had to redirect all the vines several times to keep them from growing into my other plants. The scary part is, I’ve not used any fertilizer in the garden this year – I water the plants regularly and spray on a little organic insecticidal soap if I see any bug damage, but that’s it.
Pumpkin vines, about a month and a half after planting
It’s getting close to time to be able to harvest some of these items. I’ve got a watermelon that’s about 2 inches in diameter so far, and close to a dozen tomatoes that are just beginning to turn red. I’m looking forward to being able to enjoy some of this nutritious food that I produced from my own garden!
New little watermelon – about 2 inches diameter in this picture
I just recieved a nice bit of swag from Peter at Agile Scout. It’s the book, The Attraction Principle: Finding, Keeping and Teaming Passionate People, by James Lucas and Phil Hotsenpiller.
I’m very much looking forward to reading this book. I had the sincere pleasure of hearing Jim Lucas’ keynote presentation at the PWWCBA conference last week on the topic of using competing ideas into competitive advantage. Jim is clearly a deep thinker in the field of finding and keeping top-shelf talent, and I’m eager to put more of his ideas into practice.
It’s a good day for a PM when you get to celebrate a successful project with your team! That’s the case today, as my team and I are heading to Churchill Downs (home of the Kentucky Derby, known worldwide as “The Greatest 2 Minutes in Sports”) for a day of racing in celebration of successfully implementing a very large project this year.
Celebration of success is definitely an area that many project managers (myself included) could improve on. This applies not only to team celebrations at the conclusion of project, but for individual contributors and tasks as well. It’s always a good idea to try and catch people doing something right!
Posted in General
Tagged Everyday PM
One of the foundations to the way I work and live is David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. I’m going to try to get through this post with out sounding like an infomercial, but I must say up front that I am a true believer in the system and that it has made a real difference for me.
So just what is GTD? At it’s core it is a time management system, in the vein of Franklin Covey and others. All the usual basics such as identifying and prioritizing tasks can be found here. Taken only at this level, GTD is a good system, but there would not be much to recommend it over any of the other myriad systems out there.
What really separates “Getting Things Done” from the crowd is its focus on next actions and projects. Allen’s definition of a project is a little different than a classic PMI definition – any activity that has multiple actions associated with it is a project. Using this definition, you probably have many more projects in your life than you think. The key is that every project can have one, and only one, next action – the very next thing that you can do to move that project forward. The principle of identifying and executing your next actions is the secret to getting things done.
On this site, when I refer to your personal projects, it will be Allen’s broader definition that I’m using. I think that’s the best way to categorize and get your arms around all of the activities that you have to do. It’s only after you truly know everything that’s in front of you that you can feel confident that you are making true progress.
If you ever have the experience that you are feeling overwhelmed with too much to do, and having trouble sorting it out, I would recommend you get your hands on Getting Things Done. I’m sure you’ll see some of David Allen’s ideas bubble up in my writing, as GTD has become deeply ingrained in how I operate. When that happens, I’ll give credit to Allen for the idea, then go on to talk about my own implementation and expansion of the thought.
If you you’re interested in learning the GTD system, start by picking up the book here. Another good web resource for GTD is Merlin Mann’s 43 Folders site.
Posted in General, Projects
Now that I’ve told you a little bit about what I want this blog to be, it’s probably time I told you a little bit about myself. My name is Chris, and I live in the Louisville, KY area. I’m a PMP certified project manager by trade, and have about 10 years experience in managing projects of one form or another.
What I’m really excited about, however, is not necessarily project management at work. While that is my job, and I enjoy what I do, I’ve found that some of the best applications of project management are found outside of work. There aren’t too many things of importance that you do in your life that wouldn’t benefit from a little bit of PM technique.
Think about it: doing your taxes, going to the grocery, cleaning the house – all efforts that are unique each time you perform them, and all would benefit from using consistent, repeatable processes – in other words, they’re all PROJECTS!
For our discussions here, I won’t bog us down with too much technical PM mumbo jumbo. Schedules, risk registers and change controls are all important and have their uses, but that’s not the essence of good project management. Using a basic set of tools, we can help free our minds from having to worry about mundane details of our tasks, and actually get to getting our activities done.
Please take a moment to introduce yourself in the comments. If you have ideas for specific topics you’d like to see me cover, let me know those as well.
Some people consider Project Management to be a stuffy or boring topic. When asked what a Project Manager does, I would bet that most people would mention that they keep schedules or track tasks. Many probably also associate PM’s with a micro-manager type role.
This blog is about shedding some new light on the project management profession, encouraging you to recognize how project management skills and techniques can be very valuable to in your everyday life. Topics here will run the gamut from talking about traditional PM practices to some pretty far out side conversations. My job is to get you thinking about projects in ways that you haven’t done before.
Over the next couple of posts I’ll introduce myself and start the conversation, but for now – Welcome.
Posted in General
Tagged Everyday PM