Go Small or Go Home?

Go Small or Go Home?

Professor cook provided several Project Management (PM) articles and I’d like to get your thoughts about, “The Value of Project Management,” by the Project Management Institute, 2010. The title peaked my interest and a few questions crossed my mind as I read the article.
• Is Project Management valued? What’s the big deal? Is it critical for success?
• How does Project Management affect or get affected by how a company goes to market? Or is it affected at all?

In the article, it states McKinsey & Co. surveyed senior executives and found over half of them considered “a strong Project Management discipline is a top-three priority for the company as they look to the future.” (p1) Wow. This impressed me. PM made the top three important corporate disciplines! A couple of ideas came to my mind:
1. That PM would rank so high in importance!
2. That the value a firm places on PM is linked to their future.

How about you? Are you surprised PM was ranked among the top three priority disciplines? Does your company value PM this much?

The article continues and recognizes that PM provides a way for a company to control costs, allocate resources, save time and improve project results. These benefits are especially important during a recession when streamlining operations, and minimizing costs is paramount for survival. Another finding from the Economist Intelligence Unit survey found another eye-opening statistic about PM: that 90% of global executives consider PM as “either critical or somewhat important” for their projects’ success and for the company to stay competitive. That’s 90%! Again, another impressive statistic. Between the McKinsey & Co. survey and the Economist’s survey, it seems likely that PM is very highly valued and important to an organization.

How does PM affect a company’s Go-to-Market strategies or get affected by them? To me, this relates to three things: buy-in, speed (delivery dates, deadlines), and scope.

PMs need buy-in to get the job done especially with cross-functional teams, shared resources, tight timeframes, or restricted budgets. The more top management supports the project, the more buy-in across the organization is expected. The PM can deliver results and meet Go-to-Market objectives more easily with buy-in. Speed-to-market also affects the PMs role. For example, the article tells us about Intel, an IT company in Santa Clara, CA where speed-to-market is critical. To address the need for speed, Intel will intentionally reduce scope to gain speed. This gives them a faster turnaround, a competitive advantage, provides them with more flexibility, and most of all, smaller scope provides them with a learning mechanism for quick customer feedback to make product modifications to get it right or as customer needs change. Intentionally reducing scope also, “…encourages project teams to hone in on key deliverables that can be achieved in a shorter amount of time…” p4. By choosing to “go small”, Intel goes fast, learns fast, and adapts fast. Customers get incremental value with every product revision.

Isn’t this a clever approach to PM? Would “going small” work well in your industry? Or is this approach impossible because your projects require long project life cycles?

4 thoughts on “Go Small or Go Home?

  1. Great post with a lot of good questions, thank you. Personally, I think in my industry and probably the majority of industries, going small would be effective, although we do not see that necessarily within our company. You mention getting project buy-in as a key step in the process and I feel that is where my company starts to lose the small mentality. Once other areas are ‘looped in’ the project scope starts to grow, and therefore the timelines grow as well. From their point of view it seems like it should be easy and more effective to include their team’s projects or desires into the one they are looped in on, after all working on one project should be easier than two, right? Why not just expand the scope slightly rather than have a whole other project kick off, charters, documentation, meetings, etc…not really understanding that oftentimes that leads to overall inefficiencies in the project. It comes back to the fine line of including other areas for project buy in, or simply giving them notice of your project and the outcomes. When they are included that is when delays and scope creep can occur. In terms of the statistics you mentioned I think from personal experience I can safely say a good project manager is worth their weight in gold. There is a very big contrast in project outcomes and the entire process when a very good PM is running it verses just an average one. Our department still talks about previous PMs who left the company who were very good in certain areas (IT PM specifically) and how being ‘firm but fair’ in deadlines and holding people accountable is a large aspect to a successful project. Thanks again for the post.

  2. This is an interesting article. I agree with you that go-small makes sense for IT industries that focus technology products with short product life cycles. For IT products, cost of missing market timing is tremendous. Managements in some companies simply do not understand the importance of “Go-small”.

    Nokia and Motorola are good examples. These two companies were the laggards in the Smartphone market. Nokia had reputation for making indestructible phones. Those legend technologies could not prevent the company from failing. Why? Lack on focus on innovation is one of the reasons. But that was not the root cause. Samsung was able to compete with Apple in the Smartphone market even though they were not the first one to enter the race. Why Nokia and Motorola couldn’t? This is because these two companies emphasis too much on product quality and did not understand the importance of reducing project scope. When they thought they were able to make it on-time, they were already too late. Apple’s new version iPhone was already in the market.

  3. Thanks Annette for your interesting write-up and great title. The value that senior executives place on project management is quite surprising to me. I know it is a growing field, but I didn’t know that there was so much support across industries. I am a bit sheltered in an industry (health care) that seems to be at least 10 years behind business trends. I am still a bit of an anomaly in health care being a PM that works for a company that isn’t Big Pharma or a health insurer. I hope that this is a trend that will continue to gain momentum in health care.

    In regards to your points on limiting scope in order to achieve a leaner mechanism for quick pivoting, that is a very interesting approach that I had not though about before. I wonder how much of this tactic is based in Agile project management? I know the IT industry has demands unlike most other industries for tight deadlines. Technology moves so quickly, that speed directly correlates into a competitive advantage. I am sure there are other industries where project speed is critical, but I wonder what other application the small scope practice could have. Also, I wonder how much of the limited scope is just taking a longer project and breaking it into multiple phases? The planning process can be very burdensome and I think you would have to get it down to a science to do many fast paced, small scope projects. Overall, this was a very though provoking post!

  4. Great post! I found this to be really insightful. I definitely agree that by using a smaller scope, you can make smaller achievements more quickly that lead into the bigger scope. I think it’s good to have both plans in mind, so that the smaller scope makes sense. I know I personally feel accomplished even when I complete the smaller scope ideas.

    I am all about project managers!! Without ours, I wouldn’t know how we could achieve a project. We are so buried down with every day HR tasks that small projects I make for myself are even hard to accomplish. With a project manager you can have an outsiders look maintain the project. So deadlines are set and adjusted based on realistic outcomes, not a supervisors unrealistic view per say. Also without the head of HR being fully supportive of the project manager then I don’t think we would be as successful. Project manager’s roles need to be respected by the people at the top first and foremost for the rest of the team to follow.

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