As we grow up the career ladder, delivery managers are expected to handle multiple projects. Though every project is unique, there are certain common factors which remain the same for all projects. When people don’t pay attention to these factors, the projects slowly move from green to amber to red status. No one wants to see any project in red. The effort to change a red to green is not just frustrating but a tiring process.
Let us now focus on eight practical tips to manage projects without any escalation.
Many times, people are on projects and work in auto-pilot mode. They are neither aware of the purpose of the project nor their roles in the project. It is imperative to let everyone know the why behind the project. In addition, each member must be briefed upon their role, deliverables, and timelines. Once people have clear goals, it is easy for them to align with the bigger picture too.
A simple checklist to follow could be:
Overall project objective | Individual Role | List of Tasks | Start Date | End Date | Deliverable
When every member is aligned to the overall project, managing multiple projects is a matter of repeating the good work of one project across all projects.
Half of the problems can be solved if we communicate, communicate well and on time. Many people don’t give the information according to the audience. While the management needs a 1-slider to get the gist of a project, the team on the ground would need a detailed explanation.
When we are working with multiple projects, there are high chances that some of the stakeholders in certain projects are not updated. In addition to separate trackers for each project, have one consolidated tracker which gives you a quick overview across projects.
Project Name | Team Members | Overall Status | Next Milestone | Risks | Client POC
Follow-ups and Closing Threads
The easiest way to move to the next task is to close the existing threads and continuously follow up till a thread is closed. People are busy, not everyone has the same priorities. For example, the dev team has pushed a feature for testing, and the test environment is down. The test team is dependent on the Ops team to get the environment up. The dev and test team can’t just pause on the tasks saying they have done their job and it's the Ops team that is blocking the progress. They have to continuously follow up with the Ops team and make them understand the priority of this task. If it is getting delayed, keeping stakeholders informed and seeing help to escalate and resolve is a good tactic.
When things move from your plate to others, don’t just wash your hands. This is teamwork, it will succeed only when everyone has completed their work.
People hesitate to raise alarms thinking that relationships will be affected. No bad news gets better with time, and no one likes surprises. Raise flags as soon as you see that something is wrong. Don’t try to be a superhero or think things will improve on their own. Raising flags or escalating is not a bad thing but in fact, is an essential skill in projects. When you get busy managing multiple projects, it is imperative to douse fires early and keep stakeholders informed. If you don’t know, ask. If you have raised and have no response, follow up and escalate.
Asking for help
We sometimes forget that we are all working as one big organization on multiple different projects. As we interact with just our project members daily, we subconsciously think that our network is limited to our project. Feel free to ask for help across projects and larger teams. Someone would have faced similar issues and solved or at least would have done the groundwork. You would avoid the rework and can build on their knowledge. Asking for help is an example of a mature team member. There is absolutely nothing wrong in asking for help.
As we are dealing with remote-only and hybrid work models, managing multiple projects with strangers is becoming increasingly difficult. The teams that are successfully delivering projects have a common trait — great teamwork built on the foundations of good team bonding. Simple games like Pictionary, guessing the personality, and how you would spend the 1M USD are essential in bringing the other side of people in front of everyone. We get to know people better and get a glimpse of their personality. It breaks barriers to working together. People no longer hesitate to bond along with work, ask for help or even support each other. Your network is your net worth. So, especially while handling multiple projects, it is a great idea to get teams across projects to bond well. Practices from different projects can be adopted and discussed. So, good work need not be restricted to one project. As more and more people bond, the exchange of ideas is smooth.
Things go wrong even if there is good planning. People fall sick, economic conditions change, there is a dependency on other teams outside of our control, priorities change, and so on. If you always believe in Optimistic planning, you will be surprised when even a single task goes off-track. If you believe in Pessimistic planning, you are overcompensating and burning too much. Have backups for critical tasks, act proactively, and have intermediate checkpoints. With these good habits, managing one project or multiple projects is a matter of replicating the good habits across projects.
Everyone knows most of the good habits. They have plans, backup plans, contact details of team members, unending to-do lists, and more. Then why do projects fail? People are not able to retrieve the information on time. Every project starts small and slowly grows to an extent that is unmanageable unless you are well-organized. Documents become outdated, the confidence on data reduces, and there is a lot of rework. The only way to avoid rework and be on track is to stay organized. Touch things only once — save it, delete it, or act on it. This is an extension of closing threads.
To summarize, managing projects becomes a breeze by following these pointers:
- Have clear goals
- Good communication
- Follow-up and close threads
- Raise flags
- Ask for help
- Focus on team bonding
- Have backup plans
- Be organized