I was reading a book on managing projects and how to handle multiple projects at once and this concept jumped out at me. Not that we don’t all know it…I think we may just take it for granted.
Re-Stating the Obvious
I’ve mentioned many times that I’ve usually been managing multiple engagements at once – and I believe that most project managers are probably in that situation much of the time. Usually, you have a group of 5-6 active projects that you’re overseeing at any given time. What I have never discussed is the concept of how you survive that – at least not in any detail. Not that I’m going to really break any new ground here…but it was a bit of a revelation (for some reason) to me that having these projects in much different points in their project life cycles is what keeps us sane. I guess I was just taking it for granted.
One of the most frustrating times I’ve had recently was about 2 years ago when I actually had to kickoff two projects within a week of each other (one was the project where my business analyst ended up crying in the hall and during a customer meeting).
Having your project life cycles staggered is definitely one key to sanity and greatly increases your chances of success. One can not sanely go through life managing 5 projects that are at the same point in their project life cycles at the same time. The demands on the project manager vary by phase – and are weighted more heavily at the front end and usually then again around Testing and Deployment. The lull usually occurs with Design and Development – phases that require much more attention from business analysts and developers than the project manager other than general oversight and reporting.
As happened with me during that one approximate 6 week period nearly two years ago is that I kicked off two projects a week apart and then took both of them into Exploration (that’s where the breakdown occurred). Kickoff and Exploration are both PM-intensive phases and I was stretched thin along with having 4 other less time-intensive projects to manage also. I’ve written about how the situation was righted, but it still took a while for sanity to return because even though the situation with the customer on the initially troubled project was corrected and expectations were reset, we were all still stretched too thin.
If you find yourself assigned to projects that are critical, visible, vital, etc. etc. AND they happen to have PM heavy phases overlapping, then do yourself, your customer, your team and your organization a favor and step back to assess the situation. Don’t try to be Superman. If you can’t provide each project the amount of attention that is needed, let your management know. Better to offload a project than to fail at one or more of them. Way better…. There’s nothing wrong with admitting when your plate is too full.