Mastering Context-Switching : Essential Strategies for Effective Program Management

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Program management is a complex and demanding role involving multiple projects simultaneously, often with complex interdependencies and a more extensive scope and impact than individual projects. That’s why program management is sometimes called “project management on steroids.” However, despite the challenge, program management can be very rewarding if done effectively.

One of the critical skills required for program management is the ability to context-switch between projects and programs effectively. While our brains can’t multitask, they can quickly switch between tasks, allowing us to manage multiple projects and programs simultaneously.

In this article “Mastering Context-Switching: Essential Strategies for Effective Program Management” we will look at three proven strategies to get good at context-switching between projects and programs:

1. Reactive Switching: This is the simplest method where you react to the project that needs your attention at the moment or has a deliverable due. While this method can be interrupt-driven and limit proactive management, it works well when the project scope is limited and you’re clear on the project scope. However, if you have several 0 to 1 projects in the pipeline, you may quickly become overwhelmed and struggle to keep up.

2. Focused Switching: In this method, you prioritize one project every week to focus on with your free cycles in between attending meetings and communications for all your projects. This frees up your cycles to do deep, focused work on a single project with limited context switching. 

This method works well when you have one or two big projects that need constant attention.

3. Scope-Driven Switching: Identify the project with the largest or most crucial scope and focus your open cycles on that first and your teams. Moving all non-essential projects or programs to default keep alive, as in, commit no new scope beyond maintaining existing code base while other priority projects are ongoing.

This method works best when you have several projects with different levels of scope and importance.

In conclusion, context-switching is an essential skill for effective program management. By using the above strategies, you can manage multiple projects and programs simultaneously and ensure that each project receives the attention it needs. Remember that effective program management requires discipline, focus, and the ability to prioritize projects based on their scope and impact.

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