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By Jolie Miller | Monday, August 05, 2013

Optimizing small projects

Manage small projects effectively

How do you manage small business projects while staying on top of deliverables and deadlines? It’s easy to assume that small projects don’t require the degree of project management that larger projects do—that they’re simple enough to keep all the details in your head. But this is a dangerous assumption.

While it’s true that small projects shouldn’t require as much planning, management, or follow-through as larger, distributed projects, you’ll get much more out of your small projects with some careful forethought. Here are four tips to help keep your small projects on track:

1. Find the sneaky stakeholder. Find out who’s involved in the project, and what everyone wants and needs from it. While a company’s founders may not be writing your checks, it’s a safe bet they won’t authorize them unless their needs are met. A casual conversation to identify all the project’s behind-the-scenes stakeholders and priorities up front will prevent frustration downstream.

2. Solve the right problem, with the right solution, for the right people. Your client’s broader objective may be to increase company sales by 25 percent, but the project you’ve been asked to undertake is simply implementing a new piece of software for payment processing. Make certain your project goals are aimed at solving the right business problem. Knowing the entire landscape of your client’s needs is critical to a project’s success.

3. Document project scope and deliverables. Reach a strong understanding of the project work–or scope–up front, so that everyone agrees on what’s involved in a project and what’s not. For example, you might need to rewrite all web copy and upload new images, but intentionally not update site navigation and user experience because there’s no budget for those right now. Understanding scope protects your time and investment in a project and sets clear expectations.

4. Develop your interpersonal skills. The ability to communicate, foster strong team relationships, and unite people and resources behind a shared vision are among the most important skills in your project manager’s toolkit. A project manager who rolls her eyes at a new feature request is not likely to get repeat business. Being an effective project manager includes listening thoughtfully, asking questions to expand and explore possibilities, and being the calm voice of reason that leads your project team over the finish line.

We have many more resources to help you develop your project management, leadership, and communication skills. Check out these courses to achieve greater success with your small projects:

Managing Small Projects • New Manager Fundamentals • Time Management Fundamentals • Project Management Fundamentals • Leadership Fundamentals • Managing Project Schedules • Managing TeamsHaving Difficult Conversations • Conflict Resolution Fundamentals

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