Managing multiple project simultaneously

It is the skill of a project manager which dictates how they manage multiple projects at once and successfully deliver each. It is definitely a juggling act as every action taken in one project needs to feed into the next with fluidity and poise, and when done right, a skilled portfolio manager can make it seem like no trouble at all. However, one mistake can have a water ripple effect and it can all come crashing down.

Managing multiple projects at once, formally known as portfolio management, is a technique that can be cultivated and mastered. Portfolio managers must be able to prioritize tasks within projects, monitor their team’s performance, and allocate their resources effectively.

There are potential pitfalls in managing the delivery of project simultaneously. First there must be understanding if indeed multiple projects are being managed at one time.  As Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell where a task or phase ends and a project begins. In a sense, a project is made up of many smaller projects. That’s how they’re managed, the larger tasks are broken down and finally delivered into a series of steps made up of small tasks.

These tasks are then collected under project phases, such as planning or executing. But these phases could potentially be viewed as projects in and of themselves. A project is defined as an activity done by one or many team members over a specific timeframe that ends with a deliverable. A task would seem to fall under this definition, except that it’s usually one thing that can be in a session. Therefore, a project is bigger.

Managing multiple project is evident when you’re responsible for several big and separate deliverables. This involves different teams. While these projects might work in concert with one another, they are distinct enough to require unique plans, schedules, etc.

Managing a project involves the development of a plan, scheduling, taking risk and resources into account, managing the team and budgeting. Tasks are less complicated, but benefit from a certain level of management.

Projects, like tasks, start and end. Both often start as a task list, but whereas tasks can often be accomplished with a simple to-do list, projects require more coordination. So estimation of cost and time is required and understood to complete each task.

In fact, tasks can be looked at individually, but a project must structure those tasks. They need to be prioritized. The tasks require resources, and those resources need to be assigned before the task can be worked on.

Usually, you’re not going to make a risk management plan to tackle a few tasks. There might be risk involved, but then again—there’s risk involved in everything. However, a project must look at all the tasks in context to the risks inherent in executing them. These risks go beyond the mere task. The project can be impacted by weather, supplies and more.

Though tasks are little projects, they differ enough with the constraints of a larger project to require a unique method of management. As projects grow in complexity, tasks relatively stay the same in that they’re broken down into small, manageable bits. Therefore, to-do lists and prioritizing is usually as much as needed to get tasks done, while projects require more detailed methodology.

When dealing with more than one project to manage, you have to be efficient with time or risk burnout. There are a lot of disparate things to do, often at once. It can be done, of course, but requires that the following are a few tips.

When planning for one project, planning can occur for multiple projects. The last thing needed is to start the week unprepared and just wing it. No matter how good you are, things are going to get out of control quickly. Therefore, make weekly plans for yourself, look at the work ahead and prioritize it. Know your upcoming deadlines. Meet with your team and stakeholders. It’ll probably change day-to-day, but at least you have a structure.

Communication is the life’s blood of any project. Your project plan, status reports and so much more are all communication tools. Managing multiple projects means that you act as the hub that leads to both multiple stakeholders and teams; therefore, you must update stakeholders and direct your teams. Remember, communication is also listening. Get feedback and be responsive.

Plans change. Things happen. You can’t be attached to a schedule without risking it going off track, overspending or losing quality. Just as you would when managing one project, and more so with multiple projects that exponentially add to the possibility of change, you need to monitor and review your progress and performance regularly. Have a plan in place to manage change and adjust the schedule, costs or scope accordingly.

If you have a tendency to feel that for something to get done right you have to do it yourself, lose it. There’s no way one person can manage multiple projects without support. Accept help and delegate work that can be delegated to associates. There’s tons of paperwork and other minutiae related to managing multiple projects that can be done by others. Oversee it, sure, but don’t overdo it.

Don’t use Post-It notes or keep the schedule on scraps of paper. Where are your important dates and numbers? They should be at your fingertips, probably best on an online project management tool that can automatically alert you of approaching deadlines, and collect all your files in one place and plan, schedule, monitor and report on your project.

It’s not going to be easy, even if you plan and are prepared. Managing multiple projects is challenging. The problems that come up when managing multiple projects are akin to a shadow world of best practices.

It’s obvious, but bears repeating, that communication can make or break a project. If you’re unable to clearly explain to your team what has to be done, you’re going to spend more time and money than necessary on tasks. If you can’t communicate the state of the project to stakeholders, they’re going to interrupt with the proper management of the projects.

If you don’t trust your team, they’re not going to trust you. Without building trust in the project, you’re jeopardizing the project. This speaks to delegating. If you’re not sharing the responsibilities of the project, then the people you work with are going to suspect you don’t trust them. Whether that’s true or not, you’re eroding morale and risking the success of your projects.

As in one project and only more so with many, if your team doesn’t know who does what chaos ensues. Projects should run like machines, with each team member doing their part like gears that meet and move the project forward. If they don’t know their roles, and what they’re responsible for, things jam up fast.

If you don’t put the work in before execution of the project plan, you’re going to have to do it while executing the plan. That’s a recipe for disaster. Each project you’re managing must have a thorough project plan and on top of that, you need to have a plan in place to manage all the other projects at once. That’s a lot of planning, but you don’t want to do that when you’re spending money and losing time.

The use of project management software can assist with streamlining the process and providing information at your fingertips. The project management software chosen is up to you, there are many on the market which can provide exactly what is required, just chose the one which makes you comfortable should you go down this path. Whether you decide to use software or not, managing multiple projects is a real skill, and delivering each successfully is an even greater skill. Let us know your thoughts and how many projects you were able to manage simultaneously, we would like to hear from you.

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