I am doing a research project on this topic for a graduate class, and I have had a hard time finding sources that specifically talk about this in detail rather than briefly mentioning it and moving on to the big project ideas.

  1. Has there been any work done to develop a methodology geared for groups of this size?
  2. How does a single person manage his or her project most effectively?
  3. Is there a reason why it seems like there isn't a lot of attention dedicated to this topic specifically?

This is a tough subject because there is so much to it, just like the general topic of project management. My idea is that most concepts stemming from the general topic of project management will be revisited and adapted to the situation of only having a few people, at most, to accomplish the same tasks throughout the project life cycle.

  • In your assumptions, what would be the value of using a full-fledged methodology for really small teams? – Todd A. Jacobs Oct 13 '13 at 19:23
  • Well, that's the point, maybe the key idea is that you want a half-fledged methodology because there just isn't enough time our resources to do a full-fledged methodology. What I'm looking for is how to approach a project from beginning to end when everyone involved in the project is equally responsible. – Jake Smith Oct 13 '13 at 20:53
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Let's tackle your questions from the last to the first:

3) Is there a reason why it seems like there isn't a lot of attention dedicated to this topic specifically?

Yes, there is. The whole thing of project-management processes is about solving problems like inner-team communication, work sharing, team conflicts, responsibilities, ... the complexity of all these problems explodes with increasing team size. Hence, for a small team you there's just no need for specialized methodologies.

The only problem specific to small teams is probably missing manpower, and the only solution to this is increasing the team size ;)

2) How does a single person manage his or her project most effectively?

There is lots of methodologies out there, for how to manage your individual work. Some examples are Getting Things Done, Manage Your Workday Now, The One Minute TODO List, Zen To Done, Personal Kanban, and many more... This is not what you'd call project-management methodologies, but it's still management methodologies. Usually those methods try to be as lightweight as possible. This is because many problems from project management just don't appear in self management. For example, you usually know what you did yesterday and don't need to communicate it to yourself. Team starts with two members.

1) Has there been any work done to develop a methodology geared for groups of this size?

To the best of my knowledge, there is no work targeting such group sizes explicitly. However, that does not mean that all is lost. The ideas of project management processes that target larger team sizes also apply for smaller teams. Only you would apply them in a more lightweight fashion or even drop some activities, to reduce overhead. Let me give you an example:

The Scrum process includes short daily status meetings, called daily standups. In a team with 7 member you would schedule these meetings to "every day at 10am", to make sure they really happen. In a 2-men-team you could just as easily exchange you status during lunch or in the coffee break. It may even be that you exchange your status anyways, because your sitting in the same office and talk to each other during your workday. The general idea of a regular short status exchange still applies, only it's done in a more reasonable fashion, considering the project's circumstances.

Conclusion is that you can adapt most, especially agile, project-management methodologies to really small team by looking at the ideas and adapting their realization to the situation at hand. That's what most of these methodologies tell you anyways.

  • This was a great answer to my question. I'm wondering, then, if the direction I should take my paper is to show that Agile methodologies are most likely going to benefit teams of this size more so than traditional methodologies like waterfall, then show what aspects of Agile could be utilized with such a small team and which aspects can safely be neglected relative to their attention in a larger team. And then tap it off with suggestions on how each individual in the small group can make sure they are accomplishing their development AND management responsibilities satisfactorily. – Jake Smith Oct 14 '13 at 21:12
  • Sounds reasonable. Remember, however, that the applicability of "agile" also depends on the project. Sometimes, e.g., in hardware development, things need to be thoroughly planned upfront. – Sven Amann Oct 15 '13 at 7:34
  • Another example would be some sort of embedded software for a medical device, or software that is responsible for the transfer of funds. Thank you so much for your assistance, I really appreciate it. – Jake Smith Oct 15 '13 at 20:14

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