How to run two complex projects at the same time

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How to run two complex projects at the same time

These tips might help you survive if you find the need to take on two complex projects simultaneously.

Let's face it, project managers often must lead two, three, maybe even five or more projects concurrently. I've led more than that at once. But usually we aren't leading more than one large or complex project at the same time. Or at least not two that are going full steam requiring a lot of our time all at once.

But what if we were? What if we had two very important, very complex, high euro projects dropped on us at the same time with high expectations of getting out of the gate fast and reaching highly successful levels of performance and delivery. We all know that it's possible to manage such a scenario, but everything needs to go right and the potential for stumbling or failing on one or both projects can be high. What can we do to help ensure that doesn't happen? What actions or steps can we take to do our best to ensure we drive home a successful project to a satisfied project customer?

Here are four suggestions on actions or steps that you can implement.

1. Stagger the start of the projects.

This may not be possible because it would likely involve talking your executive management and one of the project clients into delaying the start of one of the projects by, say, a month or so. The idea is to stagger the project start dates for these two key projects so they aren't going through the same phases at the same time.

If you can do anything to stagger the starts of these two complex projects then make your case to management and the customer to do so and life will be somewhat livable again.

2. Alter meeting dates/times.

Your customers may have limited availability to meet. But if they land on the same day near each other, keeping notes, tasks, issues and takeaways straight between the two projects may become nearly impossible for you. Negotiate with one or both clients to get the project status meetings spread out during the week so you have time for your internal team meetings to prepare for the client status meeting. The goal is for you and your team to not always feel like you're running a race. You need to be able to stop and take a breath in between each client so you can be at your best for each client and so that each client has the best and most up to date info for each weekly status call.

3. Add specific personnel to the project.

Next, and probably the worst option, is to add one or more resources to the delivery project team. It may help the workload and the timeline, but it will likely ruin the project budget and you won't be able to make it up. All you'll get out of it will be high customer satisfaction (as long as you are eating the extra resource costs) as a result of staying on time.

But that may be enough of an ROI to make it justifiable. If you can add a part time project administrator or some supporting role to the project for, say, 10 hours per week, this may be enough to get you over the hump – at least through the busiest portions of the project. Cost is still a concern and it will cause the budget to go over. Is it worth it? That's up to you and your management to decide.

4. Delegate some administrative duties to someone on the team.

Instead of adding resources and blowing the budget out of the water for one or more of the projects in question, look at offloading some of the administrative duties to another project team member. They may resent it till the day they get revenge, but it may mean the difference between success and failure on the projects if some of your earlier steps or actions didn't work. Rather than just dump it on whoever you decide to chose, try discussing it during one of your internal team meetings. List four or five administrative activities that need to happen weekly and see who will volunteer for one or more of them. Then see how it goes.