Flex with the Need
I subscribe to the concept that PM practices are basically the same, but need to be ‘flexed’ to fit the organization, the need, the size of the project, etc. But it still needs to happen. Given that – assuming we agree on that for the moment – then what about the startup? Does it need project management to see it through it’s first few customers or it’s first few internal revisions of it’s product offering? Is it really necessary if the startup only has, say, 12 employees? Yes!
The principles – the true needs of the organization to get a handle on what’s happening with the work they are doing – are still there. The need to satisfy an external customer or produce a solid product so that there will still be paying customers out there waiting is still there. The need to adequately manage the cost/budget, the resources, and the timeframe that is required to get the work done is still there. And if that need is there, so is the need to report on those items – whether that’s a formal reporting to an external entity or a more informal reporting to a small team internally….the need for tracking and accountability is there.
Poor Practice begets Poor Practice
It will always be there. And if it is ignored, it will always cause problems. As I’ve said before, you can sometimes get lucky and skate through on a very small undertaking or project. But that can’t last and as your organization grows so do your projects and your customers and your staff size. Those practices that got you to where you are will likely continue to be followed. Poor practices and loose tracking early on will lead to poor practices and loose tracking later on and when your organization, projects and customers are large enough…and that won’t take long…then you’ll begin to experience the major issues that accompany disorganized project management and accountability.
Do it Right Early
What I’m trying to say – and what I’ve worked hard to instill in the startups that I’ve worked with - is this….do it right NOW, and it will always be right. Good practice will lead to growth, growth to profitability, profitability to more growth, more customers and more satisfaction for customers and your staff. Avoid the frustrations that many startups go through by ignoring this concept in their early stages.
I’ve mentioned this before…one startup called me in to help them through the process of bringing their first three customers ‘live’ with their product offering. They lacked any true project management oversight and the customers had lost all confidence as the revised go-live dates kept coming and going with no end in sight. It wasn’t until I got them to step back, setup proper processes and tracking, and got the customers’ buy-in to the new processes that we were able to get those customers live and eventually push the startup organization over the line to profitability.
Summary/call for feedback
Do it right early, setup processes that can grow with the organization, and many of those frustrations that arise trying to manage critical projects for a new startup will simply not occur. Best practices are best practices - and startups need them like any other. Yes, be nimble, be agile, be flexible. But be wise.
How about readers here? What do you think about PM practices in startups? Wing it? Focus on best practices? Setup processes early? What has worked for you or what have you witnessed?