“Jason is our best project manager,” Elisa described. “But, I gave him just a little bit more responsibility and he is failing. Not only that, it’s impacting the rest of our project management team.”
“How so?” I asked.
“When Jason started here, he did so well on his first project that I gave him another project at the same time, two projects. And, he did that so well, I gave him a third project.”
“After a year and a half, I asked him to look over the shoulder of another junior project manager, who was struggling with two projects.”
“So, that’s three projects plus two projects,” I confirmed.
“By then, he already had two more projects himself, so that would be five projects plus two projects,” Elisa replied.
“I see where this is going. He is failing. How many projects does he have on his plate, now?”
“Well, we have five project managers on the team. Everyone is handling two to three projects. I just asked Jason to look over everyone’s shoulder and make sure all the projects are running smoothly.”
“I have ten fingers and ten toes, how many total projects?”
Elisa stopped to compute the number. “Okay, let’s use all your fingers and toes, let’s say twenty projects.”
“Twenty projects is different from his original five projects,” I started. “Let’s talk about the complexity of twenty projects, Jason’s natural capability, and where the mismatch may be. Looking at your project management software, how many variables on a single project? Are the projects all the same, with the same variables? How are the variables grouped into phases, related to time? Can some variables be accomplished simultaneously, while other variables depend on each other and have to be done is a specific sequence? Now, multiply all that by twenty. Handling five projects is one level of work. Handling twenty projects is a different level of work.”