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How to manage several projects simultaneously

December 29, 2020

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.

The Problem

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

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.

Case study

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.

Try PRIZ Innovation Platform and take control over your projects and tasks.

Leave A Comment

  • Igor Polk
    December 30, 2020

    While the reading of this article was inspirational for me personally, after some thinking I see that we actually deal with managing multiple projects in the same way intuitivelly.
    I think the author should elaborate more on what difficulties a man meets while managing multiple projects. If there are no difficulties – then there is nothing to solve.
    For me, the difficulty is the brain switch when I am forgetting the detailes of the previous project. What could be a solution here? For me, it is good choice of tools and well maintained and clear documentation and log.
    To deal with this in software, I have invented a new diagramming method which captures all the important detailes. This helps greatly in multytasking.
    Another difficulty is this. While encountering a problem, we stop working and start thinking. And that is a waste of time.
    I have found a method to help in this:
    Start doing task 1, if a problem is encountered, start doing another task 2. Come back to task 1. The solution becomes apparent. Why it happens? Because the brain is capable of working on the task 1 problem while you are engaged in task 2. It happens without notion of your conciousness. That truly works for me.
    If you interested in software diagramming method, search the web for UCDF software diagram.

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