Is planning necessary in small projects?

Written by on November 19, 2012 in Project Management with 0 Comments

I hear this question frequently, especially from small business owners who don’t have a much time or a large staff available for planning. My response is usually this question: “Do you have the money or the time to do the work all over again if you don’t get the results you were seeking?

Planning for small projects is just as important as planning for large projects. It’s just a matter of degree. For example, you won’t need the same level of detail for purchasing new computers that you would need if you were looking to relocate your business. Making the purchasing decision without some planning could result in buying a computer that won’t fit your future needs and is a waste of your money and time.

Planning Projects goes through a distinctive life cycle or phases. How long each phase takes will depend upon the complexity of the project and the resources available.


Let’s look at an example.  Jane needs to purchase two new computers for her growing business. She could go down to the “big box store” and talk to a salesperson about what to buy. Depending upon the skills of the salesperson and the current promotion being offered by the store, Jane might get a great deal. But maybe not exactly what she needs for the anticipated growth in the next year or so.

Phase One – Create
Instead, Jane decides to implement a project to purchase new computer equipment. In In the first phase, Jane must create the project and identify who will be involved and establish the “Team”. Jane must let the team know why the project is being created, and any budget or time constraints.

The Team will meet to develop the project definition and objectives. They will begin to research and analyze the needs of the organization and create a list of must have options and “nice to have” options for the new equipment. To complete this phase, the team will choose a course of action to take to complete this project. This could be accomplished in as little as 4-6 hours.

Phase Two – Plan
This is the most critical phase of the project process and is often missed. This phase will take some time, perhaps 2-3 weeks. The most important tasks the Team needs to accomplish in the phase are:

  • Setting project goals
  • Listing the tasks to be accomplished to meet those goals
  • Develop the sequence of activities and the budget
  • Get the plan approved by Jane
  • Design the computer of their dreams based on the options identified in phase one
  • Identify the costs and potential suppliers
  • Identify any additional needs, for example, training on new systems
  • Create the timeline and deliverables for the project

Phase Three – Execute
In Phase Three the team will actually contact the identified supplier and purchase the computers. They know they will be getting the product they need to meet the future requirements of their growing organization. Implementation will also include training of staff of the new equipment, if needed. This step will take only a few hours.

Phase Four – End
This is another phase of project planning that often gets overlooked. In this phase, the team is testing the computer equipment to ensure that it works properly. The team should also document their process, analysis and findings to use on a future project. And most importantly, identify any lessons learned during the project and include those in the final analysis as well as any future recommendations.

Jane should plan to reward the team for their success in completing the project successfully. This is important to ensure future project success and the willingness of the staff to work on projects again.

As Jane found out, planning projects does not have to be an arduous task, especially for small projects. The scope and energy expended to plan can save a lot of time and money and result in the company achieving its project goals.

By the way, if you are a project manager and want to know more about the fundamentals of project planning, then check this out:



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