I attended a thought provoking session at PMI’s 2010 Research & Education Conference that was delivered by Professor Peerasit Patanakul that covered factors necessary for project managers to successfully manage multiple concurrent projects (MPM as per Professor Patanakul).
The Professor’s research was done based on a single large financial organization focusing on their IT project portfolio. However, the findings from the research align very closely with anecdotal evidence from past clients and industries I’ve worked with.
The top two factors (in order of priority out of a set of five in total) identified as contributing to effective MPM were:
- Teamwork oriented culture (organizationally)
- PM competency
The second factor is no surprise – good staff can overcome bad processes and tools to deliver expected results so long as they are pointed in the right direction and suitably motivated!
The first factor is less obvious, especially since it trumped other factors including consistent PM process & methodology, sufficient & sustainable resource allocation and consistent practices for selecting & assigning PMs to projects.
However, think about the challenge of managing multiple projects when you DON’T have a good teamwork oriented culture. There will likely not be individual commitment to work products, reward for performance, open communication & team work. If these attributes are not present, a PM spends a significant amount of time escalating resource performance issues, trying to motivate disengaged team members and chasing after “invisible” stakeholders and sponsors. While this is aggravating on even a single project, a PM with sufficient experience and influence can still succeed. However, when managing multiple concurrent projects, the PM does not have the luxury of time to focus on this and this will impact their overall effectiveness.
Understanding that the need for concurrent project management is not likely to go away anytime soon, organizations need to ensure that they increase their PMs odds for success by fostering a suitable organizational teamwork oriented culture. This could start by introducing resource evaluations tied to performance on projects, providing basic PM training for all project resources, and requiring commitment to accountability for all staff.