Managing short burst projects is much different than projects that take a month or more.

I’m in the middle of a two week all-hands on deck project.  It’s interesting to think about how I’m managing this one versus how I would manage the same project if I had a month or more for it.  There’s definitely a completely different tone and style going on.

First, there are daily update meetings.  On a longer project you can afford to give people a bit more time to complete their individual work but when time is the biggest constraint there is no flexibility to let people slide – sometimes not even by an hour.  Keeping an active eye on all tasks is difficult while also balancing the fact that too many meetings or emails will disrupt the work that people are doing.

Second, the schedule is everything.  I am managing this on a daily basis by schedule line items.  Items are added to the schedule every day, marked as complete, updated as necessary and generally kept track of.  On a short project communication is at a much greater premium.  Preventing the games of telephone that may naturally happen is critical and the schedule helps that by showing how different work components need to come together.  It also helps to have one single document bringing everything together instead of separate documents (even at a greater level of detail) because it makes for fewer items to update and track.

Third, flexibility is different.  The flexibility a PM needs on a longer project is different than what you have to allow on a shorter project due to the way risk must be handled.  Risk is always on your mind in a very short, intense project.  All actions are designed to minimize risk and a great deal of flexibility is needed where risk is greatest – flexibility cannot be allowed where it increases risk even if it may have a somewhat negative longer term impact.  On a longer project flexibility is all about the future.  Any change is evaluated that makes the longer term more effective or easier because there is time to assess and test the short term impacts.

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