You’ve just finished the scoping and planning phase of a project but before you can really sink your teeth into it — another project lands on your desk followed by a smaller project with a shorter deadline.
Managing multiple projects with different deadlines at the same time can quickly become confusing. Thankfully, a system has been developed to make managing multiple deadlines a lot more efficient, transparent, and easy to track — the agile methodology.
The Agile Methodology
I work for a digital marketing consultancy, collaborating with businesses in Australian and in the US. Needless to say, there are times when I feel I’m spinning too many plates at once. I discovered the agile methodology a year ago and was surprised at how effective it proved to be when it came to managing multiple projects.
Agile project management is a framework that is different to most in that the key focus with Agile is the constant assessment of a project’s progress throughout the development lifecycle.
This approach allows project managers and key personnel to plan, manage, and streamline multiple tasks to ensure they run smoothly. The Agile framework enables project leaders to identify inefficiencies that may be slowing a project down and can help to identify to mistakes and other issues that more traditional project management techniques may not have spotted.
Project managers, key stakeholders, and clients are able to easily see the progress of a project within the highly visual Agile framework and are able to see the milestones that have been achieved, which phases have been completed, and which stages are yet to be ticked off.
This unique project management framework not only streamlines the project management process, but it also helps leaders to avoid many common mistakes that arise from managing multiple projects.
So what problems does agile project management resolve in the workplace?
While on paper it may look like Agile project management is a way of politely micromanaging, there are several ways the Agile methodology practice increases quality, speed, and accountability through all stages of a project’s lifespan.
1. Ensuring high quality of work
Sometimes things can slip through the cracks, resulting in a poor quality of work. The Agile framework is designed specifically to ensure all work is delivered consistently and at a good quality.
2. Happy customers are kept in the loop
There are two factors that contribute to a customer’s satisfaction: Quality of results and clarity of communication. I’ve already touched on the former, but the way you communicate with a customer, especially when you’re providing a service, improves dramatically with Agile. In some cases including a client in the Agile process helped improve our working relationship tenfold.
3. Increase your project control
Remember those spinning plates I mentioned earlier? Everyone can feel overwhelmed when managing multiple projects, which leads to stress, which leads to burnout, which leads to poor results. Agile gives you a clear, streamlined view of the projects you’re managing. The whole team can see who is accountable for what, and any setbacks can be dealt with quickly instead of slowing down production.
4. You take less blind risk on projects
Sometimes you have to take risks, but there’s a difference between taking a calculated risk and taking a risk because you’re oblivious to unseen moving parts of the project you’re managing. When you know all the moving parts that make up your project, it’s easier to mitigate risks and steer your project to the finish line without missing any potential mistakes made along the way.
5. Agile project management increases ROI over time
Following on from the previous point, when you know all facets of the project you’re managing and effectively using the Agile methodology to be efficient with your work you’re bound to increase the ROI (return on investment). With Agile you’ll find you spend less time guessing and more time making better, more informed decisions.
Managing Multiple Projects? Avoid these 5 Common Mistakes
Managing multiple projects with various deadlines, budgets, and client expectations can be a very stressful experience for you and your team.
Here are 5 common mistakes that many project leaders make whilst managing projects:
There is nothing more demoralising than being micromanaged, especially when it’s coming from someone that does not have your level of expertise.
As a project manager, it is your job to choose the best individuals for a particular task and formulate a competent team of experts to ensure the project runs smoothly and to the highest possible standard.
Sending daily emails checking on progress and dropping by their desks for face-to-face catch ups is not a good use of your, or the team’s, time.
Instead, set predefined progress meetings for your team to update you on the work that they have done. If you have chosen the team correctly, they will be more than capable of self-management.
2. Communication breakdown
At the heart of all successful projects, big or small, is an effective, clear, and transparent communication strategy.
Poor communication can be the difference between a successful project and a happy client, or a project fraught with delays, misunderstandings, and costly mistakes.
Managing multiple projects means that everyone needs to be clear on what tasks they should be working on. All communications should be consistent (use the same communication tools, not a mix of various third-party apps, etc.) and all communication should be transparent (this reduces the risk of misunderstanding).
Meetings should be planned events and take place along key stages of the project’s lifecycle and clear and unambiguous briefs should be given to stakeholders to further avoid confusion.
3. Creating separate plans
To avoid hopping back and forth from one project to another, it’s a good strategy to create one master project plan. Combine your projects and work within the same framework. This will help you easily visualize and keep track of your progress across all projects and will help you to avoid mental confusion.
4. Setting unrealistic expectations
As we’ve mentioned above, communication is key. It is essential that you are open and honest with the client and that you understand what your team has the capacity to do. Be honest with your client form the start.
If you know your team is going to be too stretched to meet their proposed deadline, tell them. It’s far better, to be honest from the beginning rather than letting them down further down the road.
Take the time to fully understand the scope of a project, understand your team’s strengths and weaknesses, understand their effective working capacity, and communicate with your team to set realistic and achievable goals.
5. Attempting to do it yourself
You have selected a team of experts for a reason, now let them do their jobs. Don’t attempt to jump in and do things yourself. Your team of graphic designers are the best authority with design related tasks, your writers know how to create engaging copy, and your software developers know how to code.
As the project manager, your job is to guide the team towards the main goal in an efficient manner.
Don’t attempt to control every team member’s move, this will slow the project’s progress. Instead, ensure each department’s brief is clear and concise so they can work towards fulfilling that objective accurately. Schedule progress meetings and raise any issues or concerns at these predetermined dates.
Agile Project Management for Multiple Projects
Project managers that use the Agile methodology to guide their projects streamline their tasks by addressing many common mistakes that arise from managing multiple tasks. The Agile framework makes managing multiple projects easier for all parties to understand what needs to be done in order to progress to the next phase.