projects collide
Sometimes you will be required to delegate key tasks to a trusted resources when projects collide.

As project managers, often we are juggling multiple projects at one time.  You know that overwhelmed somewhat sinking, scary feeling, right?  It can be fun and it certainly makes the days go fast, but it can also be a little too much chaos when two of your projects collide and are in the middle of labor-intensive phases at the same time or going through issues in parallel.

Since you can’t be cloned…yet…how do you handle this type of situation without losing your sanity and complete control of one or both projects in question?  Do you prioritize one project over the other?  What if that isn’t possible – especially without potentially upsetting one of your important project customers?  For me, I look at three options.  Usually one will work – the third one on the list being the least desirable because of its potential effect on the customer and their confidence level.  Let’s consider these three and feel free to comment and discuss at the end.

Can one project be slowed down?  The easiest first option is…can one project be slowed down so that you aren’t working like a dog on two projects at the same time?  Possibly a phase can be moved out or some dates can be delayed.  If you are going to the client on this, be ready to dust off your negotiator cap because they aren’t likely going to be very interested in delaying anything without getting something in return.  The easiest thing to offer is some free upcoming services or tasks or discounts on an invoice they have already received.  The dollar sign usually will help you the most when you’re trying to negotiate like this with a client.  They have limited pocketbooks, too, and any cost savings you offer will likely get their attention the most.

Can you delegate key leadership tasks to a project team member for at least the short term?  What about utilizing one or more team members on some key leadership tasks to take some of the burdens off of you by delegating another resource to on one or more of your projects?  It’s a better option than bringing in a new project manager because changing key project leadership personnel can cause your project customer to feel uneasy – possibly even lose some confidence in the delivery organization’s ability to run a successful project.  Your project customer doesn’t like to see big leadership changes in mid-stream.  If you delegate some leadership tasks to a tech lead or other key project resource, they likely won’t even notice because this is a key resource that they are used to interacting with.

Is offloading a project to another PM a reasonable option?  If so, this should be a last resort because, as I just mentioned, a key leadership change can make the customer uncomfortable.  Not only that, but it will also add costs to the project spent educating, introducing and on-boarding the new project manager.  Go down this path only if the other two are not an option.

Summary/call for input

Ideally, your projects will always be spaced apart nicely – with no two projects running full speed at the same time.  But that’s La La Land talk.  Sooner or later – or perhaps often depending on the complexity and number of projects you are running – you’re going to have two or more projects that are buried in issues or going through heavy project management involvement at the same time and you may need a break from one to make sure both don’t fail.  It’s how you handle this that may make the difference between success and failure on one or both projects.

How about our readers?  Have you been in this situation?  What have you done to survive other than just “powering through it” (though I do realize that often that may be your only option and you hope for the best)?  Please share and discuss.

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