There are simply too many projects in companies today!

During a recent workshop with project sponsors  I got the group to identify what projects underway in the business. They stopped at 40 projects (they could have kept going) as they were rather staggered by the overall size of the portfolio.

Another client identified a staggering number of projects (over 100) and with some judicial cutting soon got the number down to 92 – still too many!

Having a project register

One of the benefit of developing a project register (at its simplest, this is a list of projects that are current in the business) is to identify which projects are current in the business. There are of course others uses such as identifying dependencies between projects or looking at responsibilities e.g. who is the project manager, who makes up the project board.

Does your project link back to company objectives?

One key use of the register is to ensure that all projects underway – no matter how small link back to the overall company objectives. One of our clients was so concerned about this that they included on their project initiation document a box with the objective number. The rule was simple; if you could not identify a link between the projects you were working on and the corporate objectives then approval would not be given. (You can download a copy of the PID here

Who checks on how many projects there are in your company?

During project management courses  I get people to talk about some of the projects they are managing and one of the aspects I and my Project Agency colleagues have picked up is that there are simply too many projects in companies! With some of the projects cited on courses it is difficult to establish a link back to the company strategy and if the project manager cannot see it, what about stakeholders?

It is the project sponsors (or Project Board) role to check that the project links back to the overall objectives. For project managers you also need to check that the link exists and if you cannot challenge whether you need to do the project. Difficult yes however you need to raise your head above the parapet. If you do not do it now, when will you do it?

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5 Responses to There are simply too many projects in companies today!

  1. Hi Ron – I really enjoyed reading this short post. I think your solution to the problem of too many projects is a good one. I have a question though – what to do if the company’s objectives are not being met and you, as the PM, know that the reason is for the company to make money? However, the projects tend to end up costing the company more than the company makes because they don’t meet company objectives? What is the PM to do? I see this frequently, though thankfully not here at Steelray.

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  3. admin says:

    The question posed is an interesting one Laura.

    A project manager should first and foremost be professional in all their dealings – this means delivering against the objectives and scope of the project. If the project falls into (in the project managers’ view) a project that is not linked to objectives then it is up to the manager to point this out to senior managers and document it.

    If told to ‘do it’ well my guess is there are a number of options from do it through to I resign! The latter is a little extreme however I do know of one person who did this – it was a good few years ago!

    The power remains as it always should with senior managers (sponsor and project boards) to start, stop, amend a project. The project manager should always be professional in delivering – even if they do not think it fits!

    Thanks Laura

  4. jim sloane says:

    I agree! Way too many projects at one time. I remember seeing a graphic of efficiency loss as projects go over TWO per PM! This ratio is almost unheard of among the PMs I know here in silicon Valley. MOst PMs would feel lucky, or worry that they are not perceived as a ‘major’ contributor!
    But then I talked with one city government group who called a printer malfunction and its resolution, a ‘project’.
    MAybe that’s the key, lets change the definition of projects!

    • Ron Rosenhead says:

      Ah Jim, a new definition of there is a thing!

      I have just sent an outline for a course for project sponsors to a client. I have started with what I called the ‘project listing exercise’. I added a few words which reads as follows:

      “This activity usually surprises a few people with the amount of projects underway and “I didn’t know we were doing that project”

      Another form of words I could have added was – but we have just finished a similar project. All of the elements mentioned in the article still stand for me despite it being written some 17 months ago. I would add the issue of capability. Training budgets are being scaled back and this may well mean that people are drafted in to run or engage with projects who are not trained.

      Appreciate the comments Jim.

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