The Best Project Management Framework For Startups
If you’ve ever worked in a traditional corporate environment you are probably painfully aware of the inefficiencies of work in the office.
First, there are endless meetings that take up most of your day while at the same time providing very little value. There are few things more infuriating than a 2-hour meeting that could have been a 2 paragraph email.
If you are one of the people that have deliverables and deadlines, there is nothing you dread more than meetings. Mid-level managers, designers, developers, etc. are usually painfully aware that in crunch time every minute spent in meetings would need to be compensated by working overtime. And with any additional person involved in the meeting, the inefficiency grows in a geometrical progression.
Besides meetings, there is also the use of documentation that’s constantly growing in complexity up to the point that it becomes unusable in practice. (In reality, one of the main purposes of endless documentation is to save face when something goes wrong, rather than to help your teammates move projects forward).
Corporate Project Management Practices Can Kill A Startup
The complexity of big corporations and the multiple levels of bureaucracy that everything passes through makes this level of operation inefficiency hard to avoid.
This is not deadly for corporations because they usually have a well-established product-market fit. The course of the organization is clear, and it has enough resources to compensate for using them inefficiently.
However, this couldn’t be further removed from the reality of startup projects:
First, startups are in the process of discovering their product-market fit, which requires extreme flexibility. You should be able to do what you decide is the right move almost instantly. Corporations aim to avoid mistakes, startups aim to make them faster and cheaper, because avoiding them is impossible. The only way to see if your current idea iteration is good is to test it, so stopping every move to double-check if it’s the right one is counter-productive.
Second, startups have few resources, so wasting any could be deadly. Wasting 4 hours of the time of the founders could be equivalent to wasting 50% of the productivity of the organization for the given day in the very early startup stages.
The Best Project Management Practices For Startups Are Lean And Agile
The communication flow needs to be efficient. Video and in-person meetings should be reserved for high-level strategic discussions, and they should be backed by validation and traction data.
Everything operational needs to move through faster channels – e.g. chat groups for the different projects.
At the same time, top-level overview meetings are more essential for startups than for corporations, as an early-stage startup needs to go through multiple iterations and even pivots. Getting bogged down in the day-to-day operational details could prevent you to see clearly the long-term course of the project, which needs to be carefully navigated.
The documentation for the projects needs to be lean and easily accessible for team members, which is made easier by shared cloud folders and cloud PM software (most of which is free for the purposes of most small projects).
And last but certainly not least, the project management practices need to be agile. The team needs to be able to discard tasks, ideas, and even projects fast once there is negative feedback from the market. Moreover, because of the lack of resources, the team needs to be able to prioritize clearly and efficiently. It’s OK if 80% of the “good to have” things get ignored if 100% of the critical tasks are done as well as possible.
In that sense, agile project management frameworks as Kanban and Scrum are usually the best ones for startups. That said, one shouldn’t adhere to their practices religiously. For example, Scrum’s daily standup meetings are great for a team of 8, but they might be unnecessary for a small early-stage project on which people work on and off part-time.
In summary, the details of your project management practices should be fitted to the needs of your project, but the important thing is to adhere to the underlying principles. Your project management framework needs to be lean and agile. If this is not the case, you increase your chance of failing.