Sunday, June 17, 2012
Six Best Practices For Managing Multiple Projects
In this struggling economy, project managers are often required to manage many projects. It is usually a challenge to manage just one project, so it is inevitable that managing multiple projects will pose even more challenges.
How many projects can a project manager manage?
Now there are so many factors that affect this determination (e.g. project size, type and complexity, resources and skills available, number of clients, location and duration of projects etc.), that it is impossible to quote any useful number. I think it will be fair to say, however, that you can manage more than you might have believed possible, if you apply the following six best practices.
1. Ensure the support and trust of your management and client management.
Perhaps the most valuable of all best practices is to ensure you have the support and trust of your management, client sponsor and client management. Their proactive support is essential for the timely resolution of many activities (e.g. scope definition, project budget, resourcing, issue resolution, project prioritization etc.). Be open about the need for their support, and take advantage of every opportunity to gain it (for example, through your project kickoff meetings, risk reviews, regular status meetings and steering committee meetings).
2. Ensure you have the appropriate level of skills and resources.
This is easier said than done, but it is essential if you are to be successful in managing your many projects. Identify up front the specific skills and resources that you need for your projects, and persevere until you get them. Look for people who are team players, adaptable and willing to work in many different capacities.
Resources should ideally be dedicated to your projects and co-located. If you cannot get fully dedicated resources, at least make sure they are co-located on specific days each week. so that you can count on their availability and support.
3. Establish a Project Dashboard for all your projects.
Use a simple dashboard like the one shown here, to give clear visibility to the status of your projects.
The projects can be sorted by client, so that each client sees the status for only their projects.
A Dashboard is an extremely powerful tool for soliciting the support of your project stakeholders, so ensure that the "Comments" shown for each project reflects the actions you are taking and/or the support you need to address the "yellow" and "red" areas that need resolution.
4. Ensure you and your team members practice good time management.
Establish with your project team the most effective ways you can maximize your team productivity and build these into your Team Operating Agreement and practice them.
- Keep meetings short and focused. Take individual issues offline rather than trying to solve them at team meetings.
- Ask your team members to let you know early if they are going to be late on an activity, so that you can take any corrective action necessary to keep the activity from being delayed.
5. Delegate to the max.
When managing many projects, there is quite often a tendency for project managers to take on more work themselves, since they feel their team members are already overloaded. Wrong approach! They should delegate all activities, so that they can free themselves to work with their team leads to address issues and provide support, as opposed to being locked away trying to do activities that can and should have been delegated.
Establish a project lead for each project, or set of projects, so that you can act as the overall program manager to ensure all projects are successfully completed.
6. Apply a methodology that is scalable and adaptable to your project needs.
The methodology that your organization has established may not work well with your set of projects. It is important that you adapt and scale the key elements of the organization's methodology to fit your many projects.
- Use the simple Project Dashboard shown above for all your projects, rather than a one page Dashboard for each project. This Dashboard can act as your Status Report for all your projects.
- Do a combined Risk Assessment for all your projects, rather than one for each project.
Are there any other best practices for managing multiple projects that you can recommend?
Webinar: APM13 Project Dashboards
If you are interested in learning more about Project Dashboards, and would like an Excel based Project Dashboard tool, sign up for our one hour APM13 "Project Dashboards" webinar at www.alphapm.com/webinars