It happens all the time: you’re working on a project and you get asked to take on another, then another and then another. The prospect of multi project management can be intimidating and fill even the most experienced project managers with dread. Whatever the likelihood of making mistakes while managing a single project, this is amplified with every new project you take on.
Here we take a look at some of the most common mistakes and what you can do to avoid them:
Trying to Micromanage Everything
The key to knowing how to manage multiple projects is understanding that you can’t do it all by yourself. If you find yourself emailing team members on a constant basis to check up on them or peering over shoulders to see how work is going then you’ve probably got a control issue.
Solution: Delegate work and set reporting waypoints, while encouraging team members to come to you immediately if a problem arises. By learning to hand off work and give others responsibility you will free your mind and give yourself more time. Trust those around you to perform their role and stop worrying so much about what they’re doing every minute of the day.
Separating Project Plans
By not merging your plans and information you will end up bouncing back and forth, physically and mentally, between different formats, goals and dates. The result is that while managing multiple projects, your mind will try to merge these things for you and end up becoming confused or forgetting items on your agenda.
Solution: Take the pressure off yourself by using one of the wide range of excellent project management tools out there that can integrate different schedules with ease.
It could be time pressure or not having a clear reporting and meeting schedule set out from the start, but poor communication will inevitably lead to misunderstandings and delayed objectives. Managing multiple projects can be difficult enough without different parts not knowing what the other is doing.
Solution: You need to be have strong and appropriately regular communication with your team and other stakeholders. Set out a clear plan for meetings and briefings. You can also use online communication tools, like Clarizen’s team collaboration software.
Everybody’s got to know their limitations, to paraphrase Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry. Pushing yourself and your team to ensure maximum efficiency is beneficial and is part of a project manager’s role. However, expecting too much can lead to unreasonable deadlines, strained relationships and possibly project failure. This is especially true of multi project management.
Solution: Clearly identify your resources and capabilities at the beginning. People can be guilty of underestimating the time something will take or how difficult an objective will be to achieve. Understanding how to manage multiple projects is about recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of your team, the scope of the task at hand and how external factors will impact on achieving results. Be open and clear with yourself and other stakeholders, you will benefit down the line as the projects progress.
Multiple projects can be managed successfully with the right planning and processes. Avoid the stress and pitfalls of working towards different objectives simultaneously by being aware of where problems can arise. If you find things are still getting on top of you and affecting productivity check out some further advice on multitasking we’ve written about.