The Multi-Dimension Problem in Project Management (and in Wedding Planning!)

Liz Pearce | March 29, 2011

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If you’ve ever planned a wedding, you know that it can be a long, complex, and expensive endeavor. (Not to say it isn’t fun, of course!)

As it turns out, there are a lot of similarities between wedding planning and professional project management. Like most professional teams, “Team Bride/Groom” is not really managing just one project (“The Wedding”), but many smaller projects at the same time:

Managing Multiple Projects 1

Maybe that’s where the term “bridezilla” comes from. Each of these projects (and more) has a bunch of tasks that need to be completed. Putting the tasks in these project folders represents one dimension of the Wedding Plan – each one is a distinct area related by function. In other words, when you’re in “Invitation Mode” you’re thinking about all things related to invitations:

Managing Multiple Projects 2

But there’s another dimension that Team Bride/Groom have to worry about – time, which never fails to sneak up on you when you’re planning a wedding. To help space out the tasks and avoid last-minute panic attacks, most wedding advice sites build checklists of tasks, broken up based on how much time is left to go. In this case, Kate & Bill are getting married in mid-October:

Managing Multiple Projects 3

When you go into “Get It Done Mode”, you need to think about all the tasks in terms of priority. For instance, in July, Kate and Bill need to be working on multiple tasks from several different projects:

Managing Multiple Projects 4

If Kate and Bill follow this same practice for all of the mini-projects (prioritizing tasks from all of them over time), their wedding will undoubtedly go off without a hitch. (No pun intended.)

How, exactly, does this relate to professional project management?

I’m getting there, I promise. Here’s the point. As project managers, we’re constantly asked to switch back and forth between the two dimensions of project data. When we’re focused on a single project (in a team meeting or when preparing a report for stakeholders), we need to understand all of the aspects of that one project: who work is assigned to, the overall timeline, the budget, risks, etc. We’re in deep and we’ve got blinders on to the rest of the work that’s going on.

But when we’re doing the work of managing resources and schedules across projects, we have to take into account all of the different projects that are going on. We have to prioritize work for our team across projects, often thinking first about what has to be done right now (i.e., the “to do list” for the team) and then, if we’re lucky enough to have time, about the work that will be tackled further down the road.

That’s where LiquidPlanner comes in – it lets you switch back and forth between the two dimensions of your project data (depending on the mode you’re in) and keep that prioritized to-do list up to date easily for all of your team members. It’s not the way most project software works, but it’s the way most project managers think. Give it a try and see the difference for yourself.