In the majority of cases, we don’t have the luxury to work on a single project. Our lives often force us to deal with several projects simultaneously. In this post, we will discuss the best way how to manage several projects simultaneously.
Managing two or more projects simultaneously is a problem that can be solved using problem-solving (creative thinking) tools.
Let’s zoom out and take a look at the whole picture, including the System, Subsystem, and Supersystem.
Subsystem contains a part of the System, while Supersystem contains the System (as one of its parts). For example: If three is a System, then leaves, trunk, and roots belong to the Subsystem, while the forest is Supersystem.
In our case, as shown below, projects are the System, tasks form the Subsystem, the goal is a Supersystem.
Solving the problem
One of the fundamental problem solving rules recommends the following:
If you cannot solve your problem on the System level, move to Supersystem or Subsystem.
On the upper level – Supersystem
Here, we can try solving the problem by merging the projects that need to run simultaneously. However, management may disagree. This is not a real solution because the responsibility is delegated to another person.
On the lower level – Subsystem
This approach seems to be more useful and does not request any additional person to be involved. If we move to the Subsystem, we should operate with tasks. So, how should we work with two or more sets of the task? Actually, nothing really changes. The task remains a task and should be treated as one.
The solution is trivial. Mix the tasks from all different projects into one list and then prioritize (rank) the tasks using Urgency Important Matrix (UIM) or Round Robin Ranking (RRR). We already discussed these two tools in our previous blogs: UIM and RRR.
Once the tasks are prioritized and ranked, they should be handled in priority order – based on the rank. This approach will ensure the handling of tasks with the correct priority regardless of the project specifics and without the unnecessary cognitive load and context switching.
Management requires to improve the yield and to reduce the cost of production. As a result, the team opens two separate projects: “Yield Improvement” and “Cost reduction” to simultaneously work on.
The working group created a list of tasks for each project.
Project #1: Yield Improvement
List of tasks:
Find the root cause and fix the tool that suddenly started to generate defects
Find the root cause and fix the tool that consistently has the worst performance
Create ad hoc monitors to define and fix the most problematic segment of the production line
Audit the quality of raw material and spare parts
Audit the process specifications and corresponding documentation of new products
Audit and refresh training for technical staff
Audit the equipment conditions and its wear-out
Project #2: Cost Reduction
List of tasks:
Find an alternative vendor of the raw materials for which price was recently increased
Define the most costly production steps
Analyze and reduce the production process time
Eliminate production steps creating no or low value to the product
Audit a necessity for the frequency of the equipment services
Audit a necessity for the tight specification limits
Relocate products warehouse for which rental cost has recently increased
Prioritizing the tasks
In the PRIZ Innovation Platform, start a new Urgency Importance Matrix tool (UIM) and add all the above tasks to the list.
Assign the urgency and importance to each task based on the expectation and the cost of the flaw that generated the task.
Once completed, the UIM tool will group the tasks (example below).
If a group contains more than two tasks, rank each one of these groups of tasks.
The final results of the ranking tasks within groups “Do First” and “Do Later” might look as follows:
In our case, we’ve got the following list of prioritized tasks from both projects:
Here, we created a proper flow of the tasks that should help to complete both projects fast and effectively.