The art of getting control in the multi-project chaos
Do your projects contribute to your organisation’s strategy and deliver the intended value?

Successful projects

One day in the car on the way to a customer, I happened to be listening to a program about traffic safety. I actually tried to change the channel, but could not because of traffic. But somehow the program captured my interest. The people on the radio got me thinking and I started wondering about similarities and differences between working with making traffic safe and the job of getting an effective multi-project environment. I fantasized and came up with two extreme situations in traffic and at a company. Chaos and ‘order and efficiency’. The later even when the intensity is high. 

Of course the company in chaos had big difficulties. I painted a picture of a swarm where the projects crashed into each other and where nothing ever came out as planned. The work always took a lot of energy, the employees did not enjoy their jobs and became ever more convinced that they should quit. The customers also realized that they had made a mistake in hiring the company. Then the picture of a company that succeeded came up. There, people were lining up to work at the company. Not because they were unemployed, but rather because the company had proven it was professional. The customers felt safe, and other companies, even the competitors called and asked: “How are you able to build such a successful business?”

So as not to become a danger in traffic, I stopped and wrote down what I had heard and my thoughts. What distinguishes these two extremes from each other? Is it even possible to describe how to go from chaos to non-chaos? With a start in traffic safety work and my own other experiences, I began putting a structure to my thoughts. After some interviews and discussions with people who work in the project world, the puzzle pieces began to fall into place. There were nine puzzle pieces or building blocks that I found decisive to a successful multi-project environment. Here is a short presentation of these nine building blocks.

The first building block is Visions and Working environment. It emphasizes the importance of there being a direction of will for the project work and the necessity of developing a work environment that is sound on the long-term and in balance with the direction of will. A day-to-day environment where the employees under reasonable circumstances can partly make promises and keep them, and partly grow as individuals.

Building block 2: The project’s continuity points out the importance of understanding when and why the project form is being used and the benefit of having a common view of the project’s lifecycle.

Building block 3: Roles and management groups are about understanding that it is people in different contexts that take a project from start to finish. This building block describes different roles and groups by their focus, obligations, and authority.

Building block 4: Risk management and risk acceptance focus the necessity of trying to identify, analyze, and manage risks to create some form of security and trustworthiness with regard to the project targets.

Building block 5: Preventative health care and emergency care illuminate events in every day life that can identify deficiencies and problems, before they become big problems or crises.

Building block 6: Long-term learning concerns knowledge acquisition and distribution in a project-intensive business and preventing knowledge from ‘evaporating’ or becoming all too difficult to find.

Building block 7: Career paths and training focuses on the necessity of building up career paths for project managers and the importance of coordinating training around project work with other management courses.

Building block 8: Multi-project management is about the difficulties and success factors for being able to manage many projects on-going in parallel. How to handle the great mass of information generated and the need for IT support to get an overview and management information.

And finally building block 9: Communication, which confirms that it is communication in particular that is a fundamental prerequisite for a project-intensive business. This building block also illuminates the necessity of developing a position on how many parallel communication channels can become an efficiency-increasing factor and not a stress factor.

That was a summary of the contents of the various building blocks or success factors. On this page in the future, I will go more in-depth in shedding some more light on the different building blocks.

Yours truly/Anders Blomé


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