How to Manage Small Projects Using a Simple Process and Tool

How to Manage Small Projects Using a Simple Process and Tool
2024-06-13T11:17:14.000000Z

All of us, at some point in our professional careers, have managed a small project. It may have been a proposal for a new product or service, changing a business process, or reorganizing information storage for your company.

It can be tempting to skip the planning stage on small projects, particularly when you're already familiar with the work to be done. But this can be a big mistake. If you don't plan your small project properly, you could overlook critical steps, miss deadlines, or make costly mistakes.

In this article, I therefore explore a series of simple planning tools that can be used to implement small projects effectively:

  • Use an action plan to identify essential activities.
  • Break actions into manageable chunks.
  • Draw a simple Gantt chart to schedule events and create a project timeline.

Action plan

There are a number of formal techniques that can be used to plan large projects. They are tools designed to help you keep everything organized and avoid unexpected events. Incorporating white label digital marketing services into your project plan can enhance efficiency and deliver customized marketing solutions that meet your client's unique objectives.

With small projects, however, most of the information that needs to be managed is in the head of whoever is doing it. You just need to find a simple and efficient way to organize them.

There may not be the time or resources to create a project chart, and usually it isn't even necessary. Instead, a clear and concise plan that defines what needs to be done, who needs to do it and when each task should be completed can be helpful. Using an action plan can be the quickest and most efficient way to do this.

Exercise:

Think of a small project you're working on or one you'll start soon. Make a list of everything you need to do to make it a success. Use the list below to make sure you cover everything:

  • Physical spaces
  • Economic aspects.
  • People involved
  • Equipment.
  • Materials.
  • Necessary skills.
  • Systems.

(Not all projects will have considerations in every category. This list simply helps you remember any key tasks that may apply.)

There are several free software that can help, such as Trello, Asana, and Basecamp. Now you can break down your to-do list into smaller, neater, more easily achievable steps.

Work Breakdown Structures

Now that you've listed all the tasks needed to complete your project, you can start defining your overall plan.

Many of the elements of your action plan may turn out to be mini projects in their own right, so you need to break each of them down into smaller steps before you can plan them precisely.

You can use a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to organize your action plan tasks into “work blocks.” You can then break each of these blocks of work into individual achievable steps. The Figure below shows a typical WBS.

Exercise:

Look at the tasks in your action plan and break related items into the blocks of work you need to complete. For example, imagine you've been asked to reorganize your company's information storage. Your work blocks could be:

  • Permissions.
  • Purchase software.
  • Create an information storage system.
  • Develop an archiving and privacy management policy.

Write down the blocks of work on a sheet of paper.

It's almost time to start compiling your Work Breakdown Structure. But first, consider the order in which you will complete your blocks of work.

For our information storage example, we might start by developing a data management policy and build our plan from there. But what if the resources we need are not included in the final approved budget? And, if we buy the software before evaluating the amount and type of data we need to store, how do we know if it will be suitable?

Think carefully about your needs before you start working!

Exercise:

Examine each of your work blocks in detail. What tasks do you need to complete to complete each block? Are they in a logical order? Be specific about what needs to be done. Indicate exactly when you will complete each task and create a project timeline. 

Gantt charts

Writing an action plan or work breakdown is often sufficient for very small projects. However, more complex projects may require you to schedule tasks that depend on each other, involve different people at different times to perform certain tasks, or meet specific deadlines.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, you'll need more structure to make sure everything runs smoothly. (Don't assume that you can keep all the details in your head, or that a simple to-do list will suffice!) A Gantt chart is an effective way to provide the structure you need. It lets you see what has already been done, what tasks are pending, and where one task depends on the completion of another.

There are many software packages and apps available that can help you create your Gantt chart, but paper and pencil can work just as well for smaller projects.

Follow these steps to produce a Gantt chart for your project:

  1. Establish times

First, estimate how long it will take to complete each of the tasks in your work breakdown structure. It's not always easy, but it will get easier as you gain experience.

  1. Track times and relationships between tasks

Next, look at your work breakdown structure as a whole and how individual tasks relate to each other.

Exercise:

Take note of the estimated time you will need for each of the tasks in your work breakdown structure. Make sure you leave some time to handle unexpected delays. Try listing your activities and their relationships. In the first column, write down any specific tasks you need to complete. Then, consider how each activity relates to the others.

Fill in the rest of the chart as follows:

  • Possible start: when will this activity start? Immediately, or in one day, three days, a week or two weeks?
  • Duration: Note the estimated times (minutes, hours, days).
  • Like – is the activity sequential or parallel? A sequential task must be completed before or after another. A parallel task does not have to run sequentially, but another task may need to complete before it can start.
  • Dependent on: Which sequential tasks do you need to complete first?

Track tasks on a Gantt chart

A Gantt chart shows when you expect to complete tasks, where certain actions depend on others, and the sequence in which you need to complete each task. This can help you complete the project efficiently and as soon as possible.

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