How to organize yourself well when you become multi-project?
“Organization”: the watchword for multi-project companies
The multiplication of projects within a company is generally a positive sign for the activity; but in the event of poor management, it is also a potential risk to the structure and the employees. The solution to carry out several projects in parallel: organization and prioritization.
Getting or-ga-nized: nothing could be simpler than wasting energy and on the contrary channeling it efficiently and productively. In everyday life, knowing how to organize your days – especially when they are busy – saves you unnecessary effort, wasted time and frustration. In the same way, business planning is an excellent way to mobilize the right resources, at the right time, throughout a project... and a fortiori when it comes to managing several at the same time! The organization then becomes essential in order not to scatter, to try to finalize several projects at the same time without giving them the necessary time, and in the end to find themselves overwhelmed.
This is an exercise which, if it quickly pays off, nevertheless requires clearing a niche (first upstream, to determine the key stages and priorities and draw up a schedule, then throughout the project) in order to to validate, evaluate and redevelop as needed.
Take a step back
When you receive a project order, it is very tempting to jump right into it… Stop! On the contrary, it is the ideal time to take your magnifying glass and dissect it: if the main lines of the project can already give an idea of the schedule, it is necessary to break the project up into progressive stages and, of course, to establish priorities... Once identified, these can be prioritized in order of urgency – and not of ease – from which the beginnings of an organizational framework will logically flow.
Next comes task definition. In order to establish a realistic and robust schedule, it is important to draw up a list as exhaustive as possible, to categorize them and to add their main characteristics: which service, which person, which resource (internal or external) to involve? How long will these tasks take?
Centralize project management and move forward step by step
Once these elements have been identified, it will be possible to establish a long-term plan, covering the project from start to finish. At this point, using a planning tool becomes useful: a simple, well-kept agenda and regular to-do lists may suffice, but using a shared management tool allows much more effective monitoring, coupled with a maximum of visibility on all the projects and the active forces involved. There are many collaborative platforms (SaaS software, applications, online services) allowing you to centralize all your project data and put them in parallel. Their operating principle is generally inspired by the most popular project management methods: lean management, kanban, critical path method or PERT method. Of course, these same methods can also materialize on paper rather than digitally: everyone has their own support, as long as everyone finds their way around and that information is not lost along the way!
Bringing everything together in one place is all the more important when several collaborators are involved. The project manager can thus very easily see the workload allocated to each one – and if it is necessary to modify it – as well as the important milestones, all projects combined. Employees can also follow the progress of tasks and adapt their work as needed. Using the same tool or the same method also guarantees consistency of workflow, communication and, therefore, deliverables.
Keeping up to date and communicating, the real secrets of the multi-project organization
The schedule established upstream is not immutable. No matter how well we design optimal task planning, incidents can always upset it... It is for this reason that keeping an eye on all of these tasks remains the best way to avoid unpleasant surprises, while keeping flexibility and sufficient leeway to overcome any setbacks. Another essential reflex: stay up to date! If the long-term plan is a good starting point, it is then necessary to organize your days or weeks to stick to it and monitor the progress of the project. To do this, to-do lists are an excellent monitoring tool.
Regularly informing the status of the tasks makes it possible to point out the delays, to quickly put in place actions to remedy them and thus, perhaps, to prevent a "snowball" accumulation effect. Note in passing that indicating the end of a task can be extremely motivating: what could be more satisfying than crossing out a line from your to-do (knowing that the same fate awaits the next one)?
However, as key as it is to efficiently carry out several projects in parallel, the organization is nothing without active and regular communication. All the planning tools in the world cannot replace direct exchanges between the different actors. Whether reporting an obstacle, a change in the schedule or a new element, the employees concerned must be informed in order to stay on the same wavelength but also participate in the development of solutions if necessary or validate those that have been imagined. To this must be added regular face-to-face meetings between the collaborators and the different hierarchical levels around the project.
Committing to staying up to date and asking regularly to assess progress and act curatively or preventively becomes just as necessary when a project is carried out by one and the same person.
When it comes to managing several projects at the same time, planning, and taking a step back are therefore the key words. If the organization itself will depend on everyone, this essential exercise offers everyone an overview which helps them to better understand the tasks to come, to remain calm and thus to focus their energy on their achievement, as they arise, smoothly and efficiently.