Attempting to plan and manage projects in isolation is like using GPS to drive in traffic with your eyes closed.
- Plan thoughtfully, expecting change. Multi-project management requires each project to be consciously planned and executed to a much higher level than necessary to complete it in isolation. Planning is a tool that you and the team will use to deeply understand each project and its interactions with the rest of your operating environment. Change will happen; expect it and be ready. Even when a project’s scope does not change, outside factors such as staff availability, and regulatory reviews typically seldom follow your expectations.
- Never waste time with accounting. Set up a few standard reports that give you the information needed for regular high level multi-project overview and single project details on demand. Use a consistent work breakdown structure that is meaningful to you, the team, and client. Include budgets and deadline benchmarks for manageable size tasks (e.g. 4-6 week duration and 40 man hours). Let time sheets and financial services provide the information for you to lead efficiently.
- Choose resources wisely for flexibility. Select diverse project team members whose competing demands are unlikely to auto-correlate. Although, most team members should be familiar to you, consciously include a few new members. They will begin to expand your core team and become a reserve posse for those times when you need extra help. Promptly weed out people from your roster that are too weak, needy, or unreliable; and tirelessly cultivate the best and most promising ones.
- Be selective in the assignments you accept. Say yes only after careful consideration. Manage commitments to suit available resources. If you do not understand your work load, you cannot say yes. Make crisis perpetrators aware of the havoc they are inflicting on you and others. Insist that they help mitigate the impact. Recognize the cost of lost opportunities when chasing emergencies.
- Manage in real time. Convey the strategic intent for each assignment by providing more examples than explanations to your team. Follow up frequently, consistently, and rigorously. Listen carefully while insisting on completed staff work. Refuse upward and reverse delegation. Reward your team as they develop a can-do competent culture.
Thoughtful planning provides the deep understanding and common ground you need to command from when the situation gets out of control.
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