Keys to managing multiple projects

Managing multiple projects is one of the dark secrets of project management; everyone can offer you advice, but eventually the only true advice is this: you can learn only by doing. The benefits of having to manage multiple projects are obvious:

  • You automatically increase productivity of your team, and your organization as a whole.
  • It allows you to do more projects in a smaller period of time (this is especially true for projects where resources are to be shared for only a small section).
  • The experience can greatly enhance your value as a project manager.

In the long run, managing multiple projects also means having more projects than you can handle with your current team. This can be a motivation to increase your scale, or simply to select the projects you want to work on. By working on challenging projects that are progressively bigger, you not only improve your own skills but also establish your value by positioning yourself as a successful project manager.

While managing multiple projects is essentially the same as managing a single project, there are two important differences. First, the scale is vastly different, as you have to do the same thing (manage a product) several times throughout a day. Secondly, you have to learn important soft skills like prioritizing, delegation and risk management – terms that take a whole new meaning when applied to multiple projects.

To learn the art of managing multiple projects, one should learn the following techniques:

  • Scheduling resources – Since you have to plan for several projects simultaneously, you need to schedule manpower and physical resources to ensure that no one project is given all the attention or neglected totally.
  • Establish priorities – prioritizing is crucial to managing multiple projects. By assigning higher priority to value-added tasks, you can allocate your time to those specifics that yield higher and better results.
  • Delegate – In conjunction with establishing priorities, you need to delegate all but the most important tasks. This often means trusting your team a lot more, and for this reason it is important to have people with you that you have worked with before and / or people with experience.
  • Integrated project scheduling – With multiple projects, you have to schedule different tasks and phases of your projects in simultaneous time slots. Maybe you’re in the final stages of one project and in the development / production phase of another, while you have two projects in the planning phase. Integrating your activities to ensure that different phases of different projects can be executed in harmony at the same time.

Managing multiple projects is, like project management in general, an art that can be mastered only by learning extra soft skills. By mastering the principles above, you will be in the driving seat when more projects come your way, and with the right training and motivation, your team will learn how to be even more productive and efficient in executing projects.

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