Steven Abadie

Product Designer | Software Developer

I'm developing sustainable products at Ninebark.io and provide consulting services for growing businesses. I write here about my experiences.

Project Management for your Small Business

January 28th, 2020

For small businesses it can sometimes seem out of reach to implement project planning practices in your organization. It’s true some project management methodologies are monolithic and will not work well in small organizations. However, there are simple tools you can use to set defined expectations for your team and project outcomes.

The basis of project management is a system that provides clear expectations for everyone involved in a project. It should also provide a reliable method of communicating changes to those expectations. Any methodology beyond those base requirements of the system are used to reinforce those needs.

Project management methods can be scaled from a single page document to a complex software app that allows tracking of individual tasks, scheduling meetings, and tracking project timelines and project costs. As a small business you often need a simple process to organize projects.

A great tool you can use to get started is the MOCHA project framework. This framework is a single page document that defines who performs which role in the project. By defining roles it provides clear expectations of what will be required of everyone involved.

A great feature of the framework is that it's fairly easy to remember how it works. MOCHA is an acronym for the roles: Manager, Owner, Consultant, Helper, and Approver. Those roles are defined as:

Manager

This role assigns project responsibility to the Owner. Their role in the ongoing project is to provide feedback and insight on the project to the Owner. In other methodologies this role may be called the Sponsor.

Owner

The project Owner takes responsibility for the project outcome. They coordinate communications and expectations with other project stakeholders and track the project status. In other methodologies this role would be more commonly called the Product Manager.

In almost all cases, there should only be one project Owner who controls the outcome of the project. If you don’t already know the phrase, “Too Many Cooks”, check it out, it exists for a reason.

Consultant

This role provides additional feedback or help with the project but normally has no direct responsibility for the project. The Consultant could be another manager not directly involved with the project or an external consultant or advisor. There may be more than one consultant depending on the project.

Helper

The Helper role is often multiple people who work to complete the project tasks. They complete tasks or activities coordinated and communicated to them by the Owner.

Approver

The Approver is the final sign-off for the definition of the project requirements and completion or success of the project. The Approver could be the Manager, a higher level executive, or an external customer.

Summary

The MOCHA framework is a great starting point to introduce project management methodologies to your growing small business. It helps start a practice of defining clear expectations for your team (stakeholders) that you can build on.

If you would like to try using MOCHA for your next project, I’ve made a simple one page template you can copy: Google Doc | .odt | .docx

Where to next?

After you’ve established stakeholder practices you should look at implementing a process of defining and tracking project tasks. How you track tasks is complex and largely dependent on the project and your organization.

I’ll cover in more detail in a later article. For now, to start simple, work from a physical board or wall and define each currently understood task with a post-it note. When a task is done, remove it from the board. If a previously undiscovered task requirement comes up, add it to the board. If you want to get fancy, split up the tasks on the board in stages that make sense for the project.

Comments, questions, suggestions, or would like to talk about a project you need help with? Feel free to dm me on Twitter or fill out the contact form on my consulting website.

Attributions:

It’s not completely clear to me who developed the MOCHA framework as I’ve learned it from a number of sources. If anyone knows for certain, I’m happy to add a link here.