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The Basics of Managing a Small Project

Julie Lord

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You might have just started out as a newbie project manager so you company is assigning you small projects or you might simply be running a personal project such as renovating or building a house. Either way projects form part of many of our lives and they will run smoother, and cause you less stress, if you remember the basics of all successful projects.

There are many project management software packages and online tools available but you can manage a small project just as well with Word and Excel.

The Aims

State what you are trying to achieve in a broad sense

The Requirements

What needs to be done so you can achieve your aims? This needs to be written down in some detail but also needs to be a manageable document. It will be updated as the project goes along to make changes that have arisen as a result of seeing how the project is progressing. For instance, you may have had to overspend on the raw materials or other resources for an earlier task and, therefore, will have to cut back on requirements that may not be absolutely necessary if you are to remain on budget. You could equally decide to extend the budget if that is an option. One thing to remember with a project is that there will always be the need for some flexibility.

The Schedule

What will be done and when; who is responsible for each task and which tasks depend on each other. For instance in a house-building project clearly all the utility services (electricity, gas, water, phone/internet lines etc. ) need to be in place before light switches, sockets, light fittings, bathroom fittings and so on can be installed.

Every schedule should have some inbuilt contingency; this could be extra money, time or people although using additional people to complete work on time will invariably push up the budget and may not always be practical as you could end up with a situation where “too many cooks spoil the broth".

Success Criteria

What are the agreed essentials that will mean the project is complete. For example, there is no point having expensive new kitchen cabinets and lighting if you cannot afford an oven that would go well with it's surroundings. The success criteria need to state how the finished item will work i. e. solid wood kitchen cabinets with complementary high-quality appliances, or bathroom with fully functioning shower. I know people who have had very expensive renovation works done to their home but ran out of money for the bespoke glass shower screen they needed to fit under a sloping ceiling. So they cannot use the shower in their beautiful-looking bathroom. A proper project plan would have identified this risk and attempted to mitigate it and a proper project plan would have stated that a functioning shower was a necessary part of a new bathroom.

Project management is actually a recognised profession now so there is also a whole wealth of project management training courses leading to professional qualifications such as APMP or PMP Certification but you don't need to study at such great depth for a simple project, just make sure you have covered all of these essentials – you'll be glad you did.


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