When too many projects are executed at once many resources will find themselves under pressure to work on more than one task. Bad multi-tasking is unavoidable. This is like the stressful feeling you get when you have 99 things to do today and only time for half of them. Within your company, most of your resources feel the same way.
Prolific bad multi-tasking significantly prolongs each project’s lead-time. This makes it harder to meet your promised due dates. If your lead time or due date performance is not what your customers expect it to be, prolific bad multi-tasking usually has something to do with it.
In every multi-project environment, flow is the number one objective. But, what some managers get wrong is their focus on how many projects their company succeeds to start working on. Rather it is how many projects which are completed is what your customers are paying for.
The statement, “the earlier we start each project, the earlier each project will be finished,” is not correct in multi-project environments. As a good friend of mine used to say, “Not only the first elephant, but also the last elephant, will go through a door much faster if they go in procession.”
Vast experience shows that in multi-project environments reducing the number of open projects by at least 25%, reduces bad multi-tasking without causing work starvation. So, this reduces the lead time of all projects and increases the flow.
All you have to do is control the number of projects that are open at any given time. What does it mean to control the number of open projects? Start with these three things:
- The top manager, after consulting with their subordinates, determined the prioritization of all projects. The company is instructed to stop activities on enough (this means responsible for at least 25% of the load) of the lowest priority projects.
- Determine and re-assign the optimal number of resources per task and to the remaining, open projects.
- The company must also ensure that as time passes the proper amount of work will be always maintained. Defrosting projects too early will, again, flood the system with work. Defrosting projects too late will lead to starvation of work and extend projects’ lead times. So, frozen projects are defrosted at a pace that maintains the reduced load.
For example, a large German biotech company offers Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) compliant services for the analysis of biologics, cell line characterizations, impurity testing and cell-based bioassays. Over the course of three days, the core team and the local works council representative attended the Arvense “Increasing Flow” Workshop.
Within one month of implementation, the output of the facility increased 50% from established baseline. Other outcomes include:
- Due date performance increased from 65% to 99%
- Order lead time decreased from 17 days to 5 days (-70%)
- Employee engagement has increased
- Net profit over sales ratio increased 35%
- QA review and the related rework decreased
So, to quickly reduce prolific bad multitasking in your multi-project environment, focus on flow and maintain the reduced level of load on your resources. Your lead times will decrease, your due performance will improve, and the best part–– your stress and the stress on your workforce will go down.
Guest Post by Stewart Witt
Stewart has over 20 years of experience leading successful projects like NASCAR pit stop improvement teams and portfolios of projects for worldwide organization transformation projects. Stewart is also featured in one of Time Magazine’s 25 Most Influential Business Management Books, The Goal, by Eliyahu Goldratt. It contains an interview by Fortune Magazine’s Editor at Large about Stewart’s experiences with the process of ongoing improvement.
He earned his Bachelor of Science Organizational Development & Leadership from Purdue University, School of Technology, Department of Supervision and his Associates of Applied Science in Electrical Engineering from the Indiana Vocational Technical College. Stewart is also certified by the Theory of Constraints International Certification Organization (TOCICO) and the International Supply Chain Education Alliance (ISCEA) in the areas of demand driven MRP and project management.
Find Stewart on LinkedIn.