Episode 480: How To Manage Multiple Projects (Free)
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Research shows there are more people managing multiple projects than single projects, and yet there is not much information about it.
To be able to manage big, single projects requires abilities that we, as project managers, have learned and developed over the years; learning about managing various projects is the new ability to learn.
Join Elizabeth Harrin and Cornelius Fichtner as they discuss the fascinating topic of Managing Multiple Projects. Should we use the same approach as when managing one project? What are the recommended tools to use? What’s the trick, really?
Here are the questions Cornelius asks Elizabeth:
- What’s your experience of managing multiple projects?
- Why did you write the book?
- So, what’s the trick to getting it all done?
- In your book, you talk about the challenges of managing multiple projects and the skills, processes and techniques that help overcome those. What barriers might project professionals face when it comes to using those tools?
- Confidence sounds key to taking active steps in how you manage your workload. How can project professionals increase their own confidence?
- We hear a lot about the importance of good stakeholder engagement, but what are the real benefits for people managing multiple projects?
- How does remote work change how multiple projects need to be managed?
- What are the biggest challenges involved in managing multiple projects in a remote environment?
- And finally, there will be a question about... Sushi!
Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam: PMP Exam prep
Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.
Cornelius Fichtner:strong> In this episode, we are going to talk about how to manage multiple projects.
Hello, and welcome back to The Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com. This is the live stream for Episode 480, and I’m Cornelius Fichtner. Thank you very much for joining us.
For those of us, for those us, for those of you who are accessing this episode recorded, and not live, please remember, this is a video episode. So, if you’re only getting audio and not the video, then please look for the ”Play video episode” link in your podcast app, or simply visit www.pm-podcast.com/480.
Cornelius Fichtner: So, managing multiple projects. Project management is changing. You know, rather than focusing solely on one large project, the majority of project managers are often expected to juggle multiple projects. That different set of challenges of its own, right? Between a greater number of project sponsors, resource conflicts, constant pressure from deadlines, it can be difficult to avoid burnout.
Managing multiple projects, it blends formal project management techniques with time management and productivity tools in a step-by-step approach to consolidating our workload. So, from combining schedules to prioritizing work, engaging stakeholders, managing multiple projects simply requires us to adapt our behavior and techniques to successfully work on several projects at once.
And, to discuss this topic with us today, we have Elizabeth Harrin joining us here from the South of London, right, in the UK?
Elizabeth Harrin: Yes! Hello!
Cornelius Fichtner: Hi, Elizabeth!
Elizabeth Harrin: Thank you for having me on the show!
Cornelius Fichtner: Of course, welcome back for the umph-teenth time, I think?
Elizabeth Harrin: I don’t remember. But, it has been awhile.
Cornelius Fichtner: Been here a few times. Been a few times. First question for you: What can our audience expect to learn, to take away, to hear from our conversation here today?
Elizabeth Harrin: Well, I’ve spent a lot of time researching tools and techniques for managing multiple projects, and I’ve got some ideas I can share with you all today, which will hopefully mean that you will find it easier to juggle your workload, which should mean that you get out of the office on time more regularly. That is the goal.
Cornelius Fichtner: Okay! You’ve actually taken something away or ahead right now, because even though you’ve been on the program a few times, just a quick introduction here: Elizabeth Harrin, author of six books, speaker, mentor, coach, Rebels Guide to PM, did I get that right?
Elizabeth Harrin: Yes.
Cornelius Fichtner: www.rebelsguidetopm.com yes? And she helps us, and she has already mentioned that, managing multiple projects and leaving the office on time.
And, when I said she is an author of six books, I checked this out. And as you can see here, these are all the book covers. There are eight, and which one is the same? So, the same book, two covers, I can’t tell what.
Elizabeth Harrin: They are “Social Media for Project Managers” I wrote for PMI, way back in the day.
Cornelius Fichtner: Right. That’s one at the top right there, yeah, okay.
Elizabeth Harrin: And, “Collaboration Tools for Project Managers” was the second.
Cornelius Fichtner: Ah, okay. So, this one here, the teal green, yellow ones, alright! Got it! Okay, yeah! But the one that we are focusing on right now is the one in the middle --- “Managing Multiple Projects” there. That’s the topic. Not the book itself, but more the problems, the methods, the approaches, the tips, the tricks.
If throughout this conversation, you have a question for Elizabeth Harrin and you’re joining us live on Facebook and YouTube, please don’t hesitate. Put it in the chat box, and we will be happy to add your questions to the mix. Here are mine! I have nine questions for Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Harrin: Ooh, this is good!
Cornelius Fichtner: All neatly placed, neatly placed here on one page. What, why, ,tricks, benefits, confidence, barriers, remote, challenges, and sushi?
Elizabeth Harrin: Mmm.
Cornelius Fichtner: Exactly! So, if you want to know what the sushi question is all about, you’re going to have to stay until the very end. Let us get started, therefore, with the first question, the obvious one, the “what” question. Elizabeth, what is your experience of managing multiple projects?
Elizabeth Harrin: Well, like many project managers, I manage multiple projects every day in my day job. But I think it got worse for me, when I came back to work after maternity leave. Because prior to that, I’d manage some bigger initiatives. Coming back to work part time, I got a number of smaller things. I got some team leadership responsibilities as well. And it felt like I was juggling a lot more stuff. Plus, having a new family, it focuses your mind to make you want to manage your time in a different way, so that you can be more productive with the hours that you’ve got available.
And so, I started researching what multiple projects meant in terms of my workload. And I just had to adapt like many people do. And I did a lot of thinking and a lot of researching to how to do this and how to do it better and not go crazy at the same time.
So, what I found with my experience of managing multiple projects was shifting. Everything that I’ve been taught about project management and trying to apply the same tools and techniques and strategies but in a different smarter way, so that I can still do all the things that works best of me. Because like you, I’ll look at it at the beginning, you’ve got more responses. You’ve got more stakeholders. You’ve got more demands on your time, and everyone things their project is the most important and has to be done.
Cornelius Fichtner: Challenging question for you here: Everybody who is managing Agile projects is now already screaming in their heads. Because Agile has a tendency to say: ‘You should be focused. Your project team should be focused on one single project.’ That means that most likely the projects and the environment that you were working in was plan-driven, predictive environment. Is that right?
Elizabeth Harrin: Very much so.
Cornelius Fichtner: Okay.
Elizabeth Harrin: Slightly hybrid, certain teams work in an Agile where they are small. But yes, the majority of my life experience as project manager has been a business change technology projects but done in a planned-out structure weight. Not that Agile is planned and structured, but in a more predictive methodology.
Cornelius Fichtner: Okay.
Elizabeth Harrin: But you’ve got Kanban teams, right?
Cornelius Fichtner: Right, yeah!
Elizabeth Harrin: Who limit work in progress, so they’d be working on perhaps multiple tasks. I mean, some of the same time management personal productivity ideas can still be applied to your personal workload. And I think one of the things project managers often forget regardless of where you work, and line managers are team leaders too, is that we don’t just have projects. We also have the ‘Can you organize that all day offsite meeting for the team? Can you just train this new member or staff? Can you just organize a Christmas lunch for everybody?’ All those things are still time drains on our time that we still have to be able to plan in and find more focused moments to do.
Cornelius Fichtner: Alright! Thank you. Before we move on, I have a few people here joining us. Qasim Abbas is here as always, I have to say. Tshepo is here: “Hi Elizabeth.” So, we’re getting people from all over the world here joining us.
So, after ‘what,’ the next is ‘why?’ So, you have that experience of managing all those multiple projects yourself. Why then did you write the book?
Elizabeth Harrin: Because it’s not just me. I reached out to a lot of project managers. I do some mentoring and I train people, and just life in general when you’re a project manager means you bump in to a lot of other people who do similar roles to you. And what I found was that most people are in the same situation. Most people manage more than one project. And so, I ran some training in, oh way back in 2019, about how do we manage multiple projects as a community as project managers. And it really seem to hit a nerve, and I thought maybe more people need some structure around how to do this.
Because if you think about how we teach project management, even me when I teach newbie project managers how to get their work organized, it’s very much you follow the methodology in the textbook, and then that’s fine. That’s one project. You understand how to run one project. So all my project management training, all the prior books I’ve ever written about project management have been very much around one person doing one project at a time. And we’ve never been taught as a community of project professionals how to layer those things into our workload. Because if you’re digging 10 holes, you should be able to dig 20 holes, and it would take you the same amount of time. But if you’re managing one project and then you’re trying to manage another two projects on top of that, surely there’s got to be some smarter ways of combining things and doing your work more effectively, so that you don’t just have to take the whole methodology and apply it again on top of what you were doing before.
So, that’s what I was trying to get to is sharing some of those things that I learned because it felt like there was this big piece of project management education that was missing, which is how do you do it? Isn’t it possible to do things better, faster, smarter, whatever is the word that you want to use that doesn’t rely on taking the whole life cycle and just applying it exactly the same for your next project?
Cornelius Fichtner: You kind of sound like the Olympics, you know, better, faster, smarter.
Elizabeth Harrin: Yes!
Cornelius Fichtner: Alright, we have another person joining us from Syria. Kawa is here, hello! Let us move on here to the next question because so far, we’ve only outlined the problem and kind of why you wrote the book. I think the most important question is here: What’s the trick to doing 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.
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