How many projects can a PM manage effectively?

I getpm one question asked of me all the time. How many projects can a Project Manager handle at the same time? While the obvious answer is ‘it depends,’ it does not satisfy somebody looking for a specific number. Therefore here is my heart felt answer. From my own experience the magic number for simultaneous and effective management of full-time projects is two. By full-time projects I mean the projects where you are the only project manager in charge of the whole project including scope, schedule and resourcing.

The reason is when you switch between 2 projects at regular intervals (say every 4 hours) it keeps you energized and motivated as the ‘boredom’ of one long project does not set in. Invariably PMs do get time of ‘low activity” on every project which is also the time to pick up on other project and make progress there. An example of low activity time is waiting for lab test results to arrive before PCB could be laid out etc.

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What does a balanced portfolio look like?

balanceTo determine what a balanced portfolio looks like, lets take a look at an unbalanced portfolio. An unbalanced portfolio usually consists of a large number of small projects. These projects are low risk but also have lower rewards. Companies tend to do most of these projects because these are considered as ‘low hanging fruits.’ These short and small projects usually result in tying up most of the company resources by spreading them too thin. This does not leave room for longer term and high reward strategic projects which would usually make or break a company (say) 5 yeas down the road.

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