Shooting Sparrows with a Cannon

Have you ever gone on a small trip with a couple of friends? For example, on a weekend trip. You probably don’t want to take a bunch of things with you and try to choose only the most necessary ones. And all of your friends will think the same way in fact. However, when you meet, the size of your luggage may be significantly different. There is always someone with dozens of bags, packages, bundles, and other “really important” dead weight. Because when it comes to practice, it may be difficult to stop yourself, do not take something “just in case”. Even if you most likely won’t need it.


Of course, many of these goods can come in handy later and you’ll be even happy that your friends went to the trouble of taking them. However, things are different if you’re going, for example, for hiking or taking a walking trip. Extra baggage will slow down and exhaust you. And this concerns not only trips. Everything is the same when you are managing small projects or startups.

Many experienced managers will recommend you think globally, planning your development several steps ahead, and they’ll be right. Some of them may also suggest you use large-scale development environment, complex software, and other advanced tools and all-in-one systems in your workflow. “After all, you will not always be just a small startup, and you should look to the future”, they may say. And that is where problems begin.

If you look for ways and tips on managing small projects, you will definitely find a lot of articles which will tell you that the biggest mistake you can perform is a lack of planning. They’ll tell, that most startups and small projects often have poor project management and neglect accurate time estimates. They use simple task scheduling tools instead of modern solutions. Surely, it is just a coincidence that the majority of such articles are written by the owners and representatives of such modern tools.

Of course, planning your tasks on a piece of paper or even in Excel is not the best idea if you’re working on something more complex than your school homework. And a lack of planning can cost you significant money and time wasted in the future. But that’s not the biggest problem waiting for you.

Small projects and startups have another weak side — slow development, burning out. While weak planning and bad estimates can cause you unnecessary headaches, this problem can stop the development process altogether. It’s well known that 90% of startups fail. It happens when our great ideas and enthusiasm face bureaucracy, real-life restrictions, and other “dead weight”. When you try to use methodologies, tools, and frameworks designed for large projects and teams. Using such solutions for small projects complicates the workflow, kills time and productivity, and makes development less dynamic and flexible.


According to the Startup Genome Project, 70% of startups scale up too early. They even went further, saying that it can explain up to 90% of failed startups. Premature scaling includes too complicated and expensive workflow, too much advertising, too big teams etc.

The worst thing to do when managing a small project and team is to try too much, too fast. Choose predictable growth over “too much, too soon” (@bramkrommenhoek)

Where is the golden middle then? Plan for many years ahead, but think also about tomorrow. Pack only the bare essentials. I that the best choice for small teams and projects is expandable and customizable tools. Their functionality must include only the basic features which can be easily extended with any additional plugins when you are ready. Or this can be a simple tool which will be growing and developing in parallel with your project.

If you are a project manager or a team lead, you probably have your own related stories to share. What were your biggest mistakes while managing small growing projects and startups?