Advice needed on managing parallel projects at different detail levels?
I work as a PM for a small company active in the metal carpentry business. We have 3 PMs managing up to 50 projects per year ranging from few weeks to three years each. Design, shopfloor and site installation people are, of course, shared across the projects.We are struggling to find a good way to manage a global schedule where we can spot and anticipate resource shortage or contention across all the projects.MS Project seems fine as long as we use to plan at a week resolution level for projects far down the pipeline. As soon as we need to manage the shopfloor or site planning for the next week, the interplay between resources, changing priorities and activities becomes so fluid that it seems impossible to track things down with Project (it takes more to update the tool than manage things with paper and pencil).Once we get hit by this "wave" people gets frustrated and lose confidence in using MS Project for the coming planning, but we see that there is a big potential in using it.I think this pattern is quite common. What method would you suggest to approach this type of situation?
I think you have answered your own question. If Project is good for the future pipeline but doesn't work for the near term then don't use Project for the near term. Don't be afraid to use pencil and paper but I do recommend you create a list of tasks and/or deliverables with owners for the near term. Prioritize that list and update it during a daily stand up meeting. Empower people to shift priorities if they can hung up or find themselves waiting for information that takes a couple of days to get. The emphasis should be on getting the tasks/ deliverables done by the end of this week or the following week. If you can post the activities on a board and review the board during a morning stand up - that is efficient and effective. Sticky notes can be effective- you and quickly move them around and add or remove them. I like to use Project but it can be very time consuming. I created lists with my teams for the near term and found it to be very effective. We all worked to the same list and it was easy to update and rearrange the lists.