3 Most Common Mistakes to Avoid in Managing Multiple Projects
Ever found yourself in a state where you are managing multiple projects? If you compare your situation today from about three to five years ago, the chances are that you will see more projects on your plate that need to get done.
A project can be anything, from designing a coffee machine for your client to remodeling their workspaces or even to studying ocean currents. The bottom line is that project management is an integral part of every business today. And, when you are handling multiple projects, it means more than just dealing with multiple project schedules. With multiple projects come in multiple teams, multiple stakeholders, multiple scopes, multiple change requests, multiple budgets, multiple issues, and risks, even possibly multiple clients. All of this becomes an entirely different ball game and managing it may seem a tough nut to crack, even for the most seasoned project and program managers. Even though you may already be using a project management software, you must always steer clear of these three common mistakes that could affect and potentially jeopardize your projects.
Not Setting Project Goals Upfront
Projects, by definition, are meant to achieve specific goals and objectives. By defining clear and precise goals and objectives for your projects, your teams can focus solely on those goals and outcomes. If the goals are unclear, it can quickly turn your formal project management process into an uncontrollable juggernaut of chaos coming in the form of scope creep, unrealistic expectations from stakeholders, dried up cash flows and all that jazz. Goal setting is a vital component for projects’ success. Yet, when multiple projects come in, managers often seem to take a shortcut and overlook this crucial process of goal setting that can potentially prevent and solve so many problems down the line. Setting project goals upfront help you in the following areas:
- Understanding why you are doing this project and aligning it to business strategy and plan.
- Understanding the deliverables that the management or client is expecting from the project.
- Establishing clear criteria for success (or failure).
- Identifying conflicting objectives, outcomes or expectations from multiple projects.
- Identifying resources and capabilities at the beginning.
Asking the right questions at the onset of a project will help you identify meaningful project goals and objectives, which in turn help manage multiple projects successfully.
Not Prioritizing Projects
Manage your priorities, not your time. This quote frequently appears in many productivity and time management blogs. One of the most commonly heard complaints from project managers is that they are struggling with deadlines. The reason being too many times we see teams working on a project that is a lower priority while a higher visibility project starts to slip. This happens when project priorities are not clearly communicated to all stakeholders. When you are managing multiple projects, you often have cross-functional teams working on several tasks across these projects at the same time. If you don’t know what your priorities are, you will end up spending their precious time on useless activities causing important milestones to be missed and deadlines not be met. According to the Pareto Principle, 20% of a project’s input is responsible for 80% of its results. Use this principle as a way to prioritize your efforts. The art of prioritization comes a long way in gaining clarity about which tasks should be assigned to whom thereby help save a lot of hassle and headache.
Forgetting that it’s all about People Management
We live in a world which is increasingly being driven by automation, tools, and data. With organizations investing in advanced project management tools and globalization driving a need for collaboration, the people side of project management does tend to get ignored more often than not. Often while managing multiple projects, project managers tend to get bogged down by the scope, costs, quality, and timelines, and forget about the people who are actually doing the work. This results in either failing to properly manage your team members, or worst, micromanaging them. While it may be tempting to control as many things as possible or trying to do everything yourself, it is actually bad for your team’s morale. Project management is all about people management first. It is the people who help deliver on your project objectives and outcomes. An efficient project manager is, therefore, an enabler. Communication becomes even more crucial while managing multiple projects. You need to make sure that you clearly communicate the roles and responsibilities, and everyone understands how and why their part is vital to the success of the projects and also schedule time for periodic check-ins.
Though managing multiple projects may scare you off at first, you can easily overcome it by avoiding these common mistakes and steering your projects to success.