Larger Projects Require a Larger Plan


In developing this idea into this finished piece, I grappled with the apparent obviousness of the point I’m trying to make. But that doesn’t make it less valid.

And perhaps my point is not quite as self-evident as it first seems.

Larger projects generally take more time, involve more people, and develop through more phases than average-size efforts. This means – much the way Warren Buffett’s multi-billion-dollar investments must take into account not just the market itself, but the impact of their own size on the market – larger projects must consider aspects of their own size in the planning to bring them to fruition.

Above and beyond planning the conventional elements of a large project – such as its goal, strategy, and tactics – I’m also talking about considerations of:

Who Is Involved?

Ordinary-size projects can usually be started, worked, and completed in a few days, weeks, or months. They involve relatively small teams that most often remain stable during the course of the project. But larger projects present a whole different ball game.

Larger projects tend to involve many more people, and the key players among them generally work at much higher levels. This usually means they wield more power and have more latitude for action. As a result, a few key individuals may have huge impacts on how larger projects are conceived, executed, and later evaluated.

Larger projects also stretch over longer periods of time. As a result, some or all of the key players may come and go during the life of the project. And when they do, the project’s most important priorities, working styles, and other pathways toward its ultimate success or failure can easily change.

That’s why it’s important to know and plan for working with each of the individual key players involved with larger projects, and also to….

Identify Their “Buttons”

It’s comfortable to think the higher-level people working on larger projects are mostly professional, rational, careful, and dispassionate in their thinking and decision-making. But let’s not forget, first and foremost, they are people. This means they have both “hot” buttons and “cold” buttons in their personal make-up.

In this context, I’m using the term “hot button” to reference various matters that attract and interest a person, and “cold button” to reference other matters that repel or lead to disinterest.

These “hot” and “cold” buttons can and probably will influence key people’s choices – including support for, opposition to, and follow-through on major elements of the project. Because these buttons nearly always vary widely among key players, a project can be whipsawed from one direction to another many times as key personnel rotate in and out of the project team.

Because of this, learning about and giving more weight to what excites and irritates the key people on a larger project generally expands the opportunities to keep a larger project tightly on track over its full life-cycle.

In practice, building in more “hot” buttons and excluding as many “cold” buttons as possible is a great help in ensuring a larger project will survive and reach its goal.

Evaluate “Playing Field” Conditions

Because larger projects tend to require more time to complete, there’s also a greater likelihood the conditions under which they’re playing out may change, including the:

  • Priority,
  • Key player strengths and weaknesses,
  • Relevant markets and competition,
  • Supply chain and technology issues,
  • Resource availability,
  • Regulatory environment,

and so forth.

This is a big reason why consideration of how “playing field” conditions currently impact the project – and of how changes to any of them may help or harm its outlook for success – is a key component of the most effective plans for completing larger projects.

I’m suggesting here the non-obvious point that looking beyond the basic parameters required to complete larger projects in your work and your life, most notably contextual issues like the players and the playing field involved, gains you the considerable advantages of a broader perspective. This, in turn, increases your chances of bringing more of your larger projects to fruition.

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