The Folly of Project Multi Tasking

Project multi-tasking virtues have been expounded for years. While it has its place, it extends project duration’s beyond their due date. 5 min read.

Project Multitasking

With project multitasking, if only one project is being handled, the actual project duration will be the same as the original project duration specified. If two projects are being handled, each project will take twice as long as the original project duration’s specified. If three projects are being handled, each project will be multiplied by three, and so on. This situation is equivalent to a single project resource having to divide their available time between multiple projects, which extends project duration’s beyond their due date.

As a project resource simultaneously handles more projects their available time is divided, causing project duration’s to become longer. Conversely, as each project is delivered, the duration for the remaining projects becomes shorter.

Project Multitasking Activity Simulation Model

In this example, three kinds of projects are being processed by three project resources. In the multitasking model, the project resources must share their time between all the projects being delivered. While in the standard model, projects are routed based on their type to be delivered by one resource only. This experiment compares which of the two models is the most effective.

Simulation results shows standard project model duration’s are significantly shorter than those produced by the multitasking project model. What is surprising is the magnitude of this effect, which is more than doubled!

Project Multitasking Simulation Results

Model simulation shows moving average project duration increases as the number of projects being delivered increases, which causes projects to be delivered beyond their due date. This can be understood by considering the following model diagram,

Multi Tasking Diagram

Project Multitasking Summary

While undoubtedly multi-tasking has its place in business, from a project perspective project multitasking unnecessarily extends project duration’s for all projects being handled simultaneously. Naturally, this tends to occur in resource constrained project organisations. A better resourcing policy is to instead focus on one project at a time and deliver it as quickly as possible preferably by the due date. Rather, than working on all projects at one time and unnecessarily extending each project’s duration beyond their due date.

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