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Episode 459: Managing Multiple Projects (Free)

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If you are like most project managers out there, then you are likely managing more than one project. You have more than one ball in the air. You are juggling.

That means you will have to divide your attention between multiple projects. Keeping an eye on each of the balls as they are flying through the air. Experience helps. Both with keeping three balls in the air and also with making sure you successfully complete all of the projects you are assigned to.

Well... you have come to the right place because over the last decade, I have published 458 episodes here on The PM Podcast, and most of them qualify for free PMI PDUs.

In this recording of a live stream we are joined by Elizabeth Harrin soon launches a new course on Mastering Multiple Projects. And we are picking her brain today for tips, tricks, and good practices.

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Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Webinar Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: In this episode of The Project Management Podcast™, we discuss how to master managing multiple projects with Elizabeth Harrin with lots of tips and tricks and good practices for you.

Hello and welcome back to The Project Management Podcast™ at This is the live stream for Episode #459 and I’m Cornelius Fichtner. Thank you very much for being here.

Now, if you are like most project managers out there then you are likely managing more than one project. You have more than one ball in there so to speak. You are juggling! That means you will have to divide your attention between multiple projects. Keeping an eye on each of the balls here and each of the projects as they are flying through the air. Experience helps in this, obviously, both with keeping balls in the air and also making sure that you bring all of those projects to a successful close once they are assigned to you. Woah! That’s a hard one to do especially live on air.

So joining us today on this livestream is Elizabeth Harrin because she will soon be launching a course on the topic of mastering multiple projects and we are picking her brain today for tips and tricks, and good practices. And I’m out of breath now.

Okay. And if you have any questions for Elizabeth then please do go ahead and type them into the chat, but I would also like to say that if you have any questions that are off topic for today, I get a lot of questions about the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam, things like that. I will not be answering them live on air today. Instead, we will be answering those in the chat only.

Video Presentation

Cornelius Fichtner: And now, it is time for the main event. Hello, Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Harrin: Hello!

Cornelius Fichtner: Welcome back!

Elizabeth Harrin: Thank you very much for having me on your live stream today.

Cornelius Fichtner: Of course, you’re welcome. So to get us started and to give me some time to unhook myself, please tell me, what was the largest number of projects that you have to manage at any given time? What was that like?

Elizabeth Harrin: Well, I was thinking about this, the course. Sometimes the project work is so small, you don’t really think of it as a project. But I would say, I’d had maybe about four small to medium-sized projects and an additional two projects I will consider to be my great projects along with the some bits of BAU.

So I’ve done some research with my project management community, and that’s actually quite a small amount of projects in comparison to what some people have to face when they’re managing multiple projects. But yes, so I would say six. But all quite tiny.

Cornelius Fichtner: Alright! And would you believe it that even though I’ve prepared a ton for this, I totally forgot to open up the document with the questions. Where is it? Oh my God! Here we go!

Elizabeth Harrin: Don’t worry. Can you juggle with six?

Cornelius Fichtner: I don’t know.

Elizabeth Harrin: I bet you could do six projects. Maybe not six balls.

Cornelius Fichtner: I’ll find it eventually, okay. So in that case, let me throw in one here: Why were you interested? What got you interested in doing this multiple projects? Because you know full disclosure, you have a course coming up, a webinar on the topic of mastering multiple projects. What was it that prompted you to go into this?

Elizabeth Harrin: Well, I did some research, survey of project managers and it turned out that most project managers are running, 59 percent of people running between two and five projects. And it got me thinking well that’s kind of normal. I was expecting that result because I do the same.

I think what got me with, we have to be able to manage multiple projects because our managers expect it from us. This whole idea of having one big project and just running with it. While it’s wonderful and I have done that too and it feels really streamlined and you can have everything aligned nicely and then spend all your time dedicated to one thing. It actually doesn’t happen that often.

So I think because in project management books I read things like the PMBOK® Guide, it doesn’t explicitly say: How can you use these skills but use them in really smart way so that you manage multiple projects and you can merge bits that can be merged and layer things together just to make it a little bit more streamlined and efficient? Because this whole idea of having to have you layer on something, you have the PMBOK® Guide which shows you one way of managing projects and then to have to repeat everything else for projects two to five, or two to ten, or whatever is it that you’re doing, that is a lot.

So I can see we’ve got some questions in the chat.

Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah! I was just going to bring up a few of those here. First of all, Bill Dow is here. I believe we’ve had Bill on the Podcast before.

Elizabeth Harrin: Hi, Bill!

Cornelius Fichtner: Quasim Abass has always… oh wait! He’s here every single week, a big fan here. We have people from Portugal dialing in. We have people from Exeter in the UK who are under full lockdown here as you probably are.

So we’ve already talked a little bit about the number of multiple projects that you manage at any one given time. Tell us a little bit more of the background here. What is your experience in managing multiple projects? How did that get going?

Elizabeth Harrin: Okay. Well, when I started out, I was managing part of a larger project. So this is 20 years ago, my first project that I was involved with. I was responsible for a part of a larger project. So I was managing one thing then that worked out quite well. And then I moved jobs, you know as you are doing your career, you move around and I found myself managing one large projects, which was a software rollout across multiple different departments, multiple different locations. It was almost like managing mini-projects but the same thing, multiple times and we ran it as a big initiative. It was so great to have a dedicated full-time team with one focus, which was fine. I enjoyed that.

And then I went on maternity leave and when I came back, my job has substantially changed and especially as I was part time. So I was then juggling a lot more smaller things being more of an internal consultancy role for my team and leading a team and then having to manage my own work as well, and doing a bit of application management, which I didn’t really have skills in. So I was learning that. And it felt much more chaotic. And I just had to get smarter because there’s only seven days in a week especially if you are only working part time and so many hours in the day. And you just have to find ways to cope because otherwise, you’ll drown. And I wasn’t prepared to go there.

Cornelius Fichtner: What felt chaotic about it?

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.

PDUs: Ways of Working, Project Manager Soft Skills, Project Manager Interpersonal Skills, Project Management Techniques

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Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM, is the host and the author at The Project Management Podcast. He has welcomed hundreds of guests and project management experts to the podcast and has helped over 60,0000 students prepare for their PMP® Exam. He has authored dozens of articles on and PM World 360. He speaks at conferences around the world about project management, agile methodology, PMOs, and Project Business. Follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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