By: Shelly Wright, Founder
In today’s day and age a project manager is no longer faced with just managing one project well to the project objectives. Rather they are required to juggle multiple projects, all at different project life cycle stages. These competing projects can become a drain on the project manager’s time, effort, energy, and focus. The key question I am often asked is, “What are some tips or tricks I can share to help project managers succeed in a multiple project environment?”
To summarize, there are two key elements to success that we will unpack in the next two articles on managing multiple projects; a good plan and great follow through and discipline. Just looking at the mountain of tasks and papers and “to-do”s can be overwhelming. Plowing forward without assessing the work involved can also lead to waste and rework. This is where the “planning” part of managing multiple projects comes in…
In this article we are going to look at the following “planning” techniques to help you juggle multiple projects:
- Developing a master project plan
- Developing a master to-do list
- Developing a master project quick reference guide
Master Project Plan
We all know our project plan is a very powerful tool. Many project managers who manage multiple projects often create a project plan per project to get themselves and the project team started and rarely go back to actively manage the plan. Nor do they create a master project plan consolidating all their projects into one large schedule. These approaches limit your ability to plan holistically.
When managing multiple projects, it is recommended that you consolidate all project plans for each project into a master project plan. Look for dependencies and constraints. If nothing else you are the common factor and constraint across all the projects. Then on a daily basis start managing all the projects from this unified project plan. Look at what is due today, this week, next week, two weeks in the future, three weeks, and finally a month. Limiting your scope to 30-days allows you to focus on the road ahead. Managing to the consolidated list of plans ensures each project gets equal time and effort from the project manager and nothing gets missed and/or dropped.
Master To-Do Lists
Now that you know what the master project plan looks like for your projects, next, create a master to-do list for yourself and everything people have promised to do for the projects not related to a task. Update the master to-do list whenever an item is completed, added, deleted or modified due to a meeting, discussion, e-mail, or client request.
Remember, do not re-list what is on the project plan, but rather list all of the everyday items that need to be done to ensure they get done; such as; call “Sally” and follow-up on the delivery of the materials for the onsite meeting. It is important to get all “to-do” items out of your head and meeting notes, and onto a master task list so you can follow-up on them. Just thinking, “Oh, I’ll remember to do that,” or “Sally will get back to me on that since we just discussed it ” is not efficient or realistic. You might waste precious time wondering what the real status is and people do forgot their action items from meetings. Avoiding that uncertainty is worth the investment in staying organized and the time spent capturing those items in one Master To-Do List.
An example of a Master To-Do List, we use at Wright1:
Master Project Quick Reference Guide
When running from one project to the next, the easiest mistake to make is to start confusing work to be done on Project A as work for Project B and vice versa. To stop the confusion and prevent you from mixing up the projects, we recommend creating a consolidated project quick reference guide. This guide should list each of your projects and critical project information about each one; such as project description, key stakeholders, brief status, upcoming milestones, etc. At the start of each week print out this sheet and carry it with you. Each time there is a major update, go in and update it and print out a new one. The key is to create a simple easy way to keep your projects and your mindset straight. We also recommend posting this document to a central shared repository so everyone can see it. You will be surprise how easily your leadership team will come to love the cheat sheet.
The following is an example of a Wright1 Master Project Quick Reference Guide:
(S. Wright, Portfolio Management Templates. Personal Communication, 2012).
Wrapping It Up
So today, we only touched on the first part of managing multiple projects, good solid planning. Good planning, helps you stay focused and on topic with your projects. In our next article we will look at the execution area of these planning tools. We will unpack being organized, prioritizing work, and time management. These are critical elements to take the good solid foundation laid by planning to the next level. Enabling you to be the master of your projects, rather than their servant!
Does Your Company’s Program and Project Management Practices Need a Tune-up?
Call us at Wright 1 Consulting; we can simplify the art of project management to tangible steps you can take to improve your overall corporate practices. When results matter… Wright1 is there!
Examples from Wright, S. (2012). Portfolio Management Templates. Personal Collection of S. Wright, Wright1 Consulting, Manhattan Beach, CA.
Golash-Boza, T. (2011, June). How to Manage Multiple Projects. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://getalifephd.blogspot.com/2011/06/how-to-manage-multiple-projects-two.html
Project Management Institute (2008). The Standard for Program Management – Second Edition. Project Management Institute Inc. ISBN: 1933890524
Project Management Institute (2013). A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge: PMBOK Guide® – Fifth Edition. Project Management Institute Inc. ISBN: 9781935589679
Robins, S. (2012, April 24). How to Manage Multiple Projects. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/productivity/organization/how-to-manage-multiple-projects