Development has picked up, your senior Product Manager just approved three new projects in the pipeline, new requirements have been handed off to you, your engineers are asking you for the next sprint plans, your dependency team is asking you to assist them with testing, and your stakeholders are expecting a live demo presentation before product MVP goes to market by next week. No pressure, you know how to manage multiple projects, right?
You got this! But just in case you need a little guidance and direction, we got you covered. Read on for some helpful tips and strategies for how to track multiple product initiatives and how to manage multiple projects.
Before You Start: Plan Ahead
You might be thinking “Duh, of course you have to plan ahead” but you’d be surprised by how many people are not able to plan effectively and efficiently to save their own skin. But rather than focus on planning for work, let’s use “life” instead. Let me drop some stats on you:
A survey found two-thirds of Americans do not have a plan for their life.
In other words, that’s 67% of the American population. Read that again: 67% of the American population does not have a plan for their life, let alone the planning needed to take on multiple product/project initiatives.
Of those that do — the 33% — have a written plan:
- “35% say it helps them set goals and gauge progress”
- “31% report it keeps them on track and provides a roadmap”
- “15% say it’s a reminder of priorities
- “13% say it has helped them plan for the future”
- “9% say it has helped them with end-of-life decisions”
- “9% report it’s helpful in financial and estate planning”
Planning is the step that sets everything else in motion, yet it’s the fundamental step that everyone overlooks before getting ahead of themselves. Here are a few strategies on how you can plan ahead and plan successfully:
Set Goals that Are Specific, Challenging, and Attainable
The trick that I use to help me with this is to answer the 5 Ws and How:
- Who – is it for?
- What – are you doing?
- When – are you doing it?
- Where – are you going to do it?
- Why – are you doing it?
- How – are you going to do it?
Be very specific and outline all the details when answering the above list of questions: cut out any vagueness. You want to be very clear about how you’re going to achieve your goals if you wish to succeed.
Establish Clear OKRs and KPIs
Setting clear and very specific Objective Key Results (OKR) and Key Performance Indicators (KPI) is extremely helpful when planning and tracking your roadmap to success, especially when juggling multiple product initiatives. Remember our blog on how to manage OKRs and KPIs? It’s a good place to start. Keep in mind that what gets measured gets accomplished. This aligns with the above strategy to have goals that are specific
Use Feedback Loops to Track Progress
Feedback loops are ongoing dialogues where constructive criticisms are relaid back and forth between two parties for the long-term developmental benefit of either the individual, team, project, or product. This is very useful when it comes to keeping the momentum going and morals high. As you’re progressing through the development of your project or product initiative, using a feedback loop can help you master how to manage multiple projects.
Stay Focused, Committed, and Determined
Hold yourself accountable at all costs. This will build character and strengthen you as an individual, especially when leadership is counting on you knowing how to manage multiple projects. You will have the ability to show how dependable you can be. You will be able to demonstrate your value to the team and organization, building yourself up as an asset that your company needs.
Expect the Unexpected: Plan for Worst-Case Scenarios
People have a tendency to only plan for the best possible outcome and neglect thinking about the worst-case scenario because it makes them uncomfortable. They tell themselves “That’ll never happen to me”. Yet most of the time it does happen and they don’t know how to react because they never planned for it.
When handling multiple initiatives, envision worst-case scenarios and how you can avoid those chain of events if they were to happen. Successful individuals predict every worst-case scenario, every possible outcome, and plan for it so there are no surprises. In turn, life rewards them abundantly because they planned well.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Time management goes hand in hand with all of the strategies mentioned above. Learn how to tie everything together and learning how much time you’ll need for each task and project will define how successful you’ll be at producing an outcome in your favor.
1. Communicate Clearly with Team Members
Next in line in mastering how to manage multiple projects and product initiatives is communication. I can not stress how important it is to establish a clear line of communication with your teams and leadership.
Developing effective communication skills is highly beneficial as you don’t want to waste time contemplating how to express your thoughts or dwell on what you want to say. It’s one thing to collect your thoughts, but it’s another to confirm your recipient’s understanding of your thoughts and ideas after each discussion. Learning how to communicate effectively and efficiently will not only help you save time but will also build trust and a more cohesive working environment.
The way you communicate should be concise: No one wants to hear you ramble or be put asleep during a meeting. The stronger your ability to communicate, the more confidence you’ll bring to your team.
Four tips to communicate effectively across the board:
- Plan out what you want to say: List out main topics of discussion/talking points.
- Organize your thoughts: Align your thoughts so that the conversation flows fluidly.
- Create structure in your delivery: Understand the flow and impact of your conveying thoughts.
- Speak with Confidence: Upright posture. Head up. Eye contact. Speak with conviction.
Prioritization is key. When learning how to manage multiple projects, one of the first things to think about as you’re strategizing your plan of action should be prioritization. Defining which prioritization framework to apply and determining the level of priority for each of the projects you’re covering will help you understand where to allocate your time and effort accordingly. Familiarize yourself with the best prioritization framework options for your situation and choose an approach.
Understanding how to prioritize and systemize executable actionable items is the essence of progression. Without understanding the purpose of prioritization and learning the how-tos, you will remain stagnant and undeveloped.
Here are several prioritization frameworks that you should know:
- Cost vs Benefit (Weighted Scoring)
- Value vs Effort
- Story Mapping
3. Know When to Delegate
At one point or another, you’ll come to realize that you only have so much time and energy to accomplish x amount of tasks at any given time. You are only human — you’re not an android.
When you’re working on how to manage multiple projects and initiatives it’s good to know when to fall back on your team for support. Some of us are perfectionists and we forget that we can’t do everything ourselves. Rather, we should learn how to trust and empower our team, who is our pillar of support when our backs are against the wall.
Strategically learning how to be dependent on your team could be the one thing that helps you make it across the finish line. Trust in your team to carry out your plan for your initiatives. Trust that they have your best interest at heart because all of you are striving towards the same goal.
Managing how to delegate your work will take time as it only comes with experience. Learning how to communicate what you need and when you need it is a skill in itself. Knowing when to delegate your work will come with the art of prioritization and time management.
Tips on knowing when to delegate:
- Know what to delegate: Not all tasks can be delegated.
- Know your teams’ strengths and weaknesses: Utilize each individual’s strengths to benefit the team
- Understand the desired outcome: Align expectations.
- Establish a line of communication
- Build trust between team members
4. Be Flexible and Adapt to Change
As you’re learning how to manage multiple projects and product initiatives concurrently, not everything will go as accordingly as planned every step of the way. What will you do when things go south and you come across roadblocks along the way? How will you handle yourself and lead your team closer to accomplishing the task at hand and closer to your goals? These are questions that you have to continuously ask yourself as you’re taking on more responsibility for tracking multiple initiatives.
How you react to problems that you will inevitably encounter during the process will determine how successful the projects are. This ties in with our strategy on planning ahead and prioritization. Knowing when to change gears and shift your attention at a moment’s notice to better handle the situation based on the conditions you’re given will allow you to make decisions that lead you to success.
Tips on how to gain the flexibility to change your course of action:
- Keep an open mind
- Embrace new teachings
- Be willing to learn
- Learn to take risks
5. Use All the Tools at Your Disposal
It’s not easy tracking and managing multiple projects all at once. Even the most highly performing individuals need help from time to time. To help make the task easier, you can look to management tools and applications to assist with your process. With technological advances in app development, there’s a wide variety of applications that can help with tracking project and product management.
In this section, we’re going to equip you with tools, software, and platforms that our product managers used and thought were helpful when tasked with tracking multiple product/project initiatives.
When it comes to juggling multiple projects at once, you have to keep track of the overflow of information and data coming in. One way to ease the management of information is to use a project management software tool. This will organize all your data in one centralized location. From planning out your product roadmap and organizing your sprint backlog to tracking requirements, defects, and reports, to breaking down and allocating your efforts and resources, the below tools will help you do all that and more:
Having a hard time syncing up with your teams? Emails replies aren’t responding back quickly enough? Wishing you had the ability to get everyone into one room without actually hounding them down? Use the latest development in instant messaging and video messaging to create chat rooms, host group video conference calls, and join topic-related channels to host your project meetings and group discussions:
Document Repository Tools
We all know how frustrating it is to continuously create space for saved documents and jump through hoops to share them all the while making sure everyone has visibility and access. Thank goodness for the ingenious individuals that came up with the solutions for keeping everything centralized. Oh, and thank goodness for cloud technology. Below are a few repository tools that our product team loves to use when it comes to managing multiple projects to keep track of all their documents:
How to Manage Multiple Projects: You Got This
Whew, that was a lot of information! Learning how to manage multiple projects can be a challenge. Please allow yourself some time to go over and review any section that you might have found valuable and share it with your teams that might need it! It’s our goal to help aspiring Product Managers transition into the industry with ease, providing a supportive community for job hunters and PMs alike.
If you want to learn more about product management strategies, or if you still have questions, we’ve got you covered: we’re offering free 20-minute career coaching sessions with our in-house team of PM recruiter experts, and we’d love to hear from you.
Lawrence Tai is a first-generation Asian-American (Taiwanese) born and raised in Baltimore, MD. With a background in Information Technology, he has over 8 years of Management and Development experience spanning across Technology, Entertainment, and Footwear & Apparel industries. He has developed and maintained healthy relationships with clients and stakeholders such as Cognizant Technology Solutions, Sony Pictures, DreamWorks Animation, The Walt Disney Company, & most recently with Nike.
Throughout his career, he has managed and led teams across developing various technologies such as CRMs, Digital Assets, Web Development, Retail Payment, & Order Management systems. He has worked cross-functionally across many departments to achieve company objectives in an Agile Scrum environment while proactively prioritizing product backlogs & roadmaps that reflect the priority of work and development while maintaining client expectations and product vision to achieve company goals. He’s currently a Product Manager at Nike and hopes to share his insights from his experiences to help grow the Product Management community.