A1.1 Scalability - The Key to Project Management Value-Add


In some organizations, project management is considered overhead. It is sometimes referred to as a “necessary evil”. The TenStep philosophy for project management is that it is a value-adding process. The value is added in a number of ways as stated in A.1 The Value of Project Management.  

Why do some organizations and some people consider project management to be a “necessary evil”? It is generally because of the lack of scalability. In some organizations, the project management processes are built to deal with every contingency and every option. These processes might work fine on the projects that are very large and need a lot of rigor and structure. The problem is that all projects are told that they must use these same processes.

This does not make sense. If processes are going to add value, they must be applied in a scalable manner based on the size of the project. Big projects are going to need more rigor and structure. We have to acknowledge that. The problems on these large projects don’t have to do with having too much process. The problems are generally related to project managers being overwhelmed because of a lack of good processes. The project managers don’t have sufficient planning processes, estimating processes, scheduling processes, scope change processes, risk management processes, etc. This causes the project manager to feel like he is always reactive and responding to emergencies.

On the other extreme, project management processes tend to delay and frustrate small projects. These projects can be managed with very light and informal techniques. The schedule for a small project might be on a checklist or a spreadsheet. Small projects usually are not very risky so they don’t need formal risk management. Generally the consequences of problems on small projects are also relatively small. For example, if a project of 100 hours ends up doubling in size, it is not going to have any significant consequences to the organization. If a project of 10,000 hours ends up doubling in size, it could have a major impact.

The TenStep® Project Management Process was written in a way that recognizes this scalable approach to managing projects. There is a scalable philosophy built into the core project management model. The approach is to apply a “sufficient” level of project management. “Sufficient” does not mean the least you can get away with. Sufficient on large projects is going to mean a lot of rigor and structure. Sufficient on small projects could be very light.

Keep this overall value-add philosophy in mind as you utilize the TenStep process on your project.   

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