Balancing Management Roles and Juggling Multiple Projects


If you’ve ever looked into the different roles that project managers take on, then you’re probably already familiar with Mintzberg’s management roles.

Management Roles in Context 

Henry Mintzberg is a business author who’s written extensively on business strategy and management theory.

Ten Management Roles 

One of Mintzberg’s core ideas is that managers fulfill different roles at different phases of a project, and these roles switch depending on expectations, resources and dynamic economies.

Mintzberg focuses on ten roles that project managers most often fulfill. These include acting as an allocator of resources, conflict negotiator and liaison between other project managers.

Three Overarching Categories 

Each of these ten roles, in turn, draws upon three overarching skills that all competent managers already possess – interpersonal skills, information processing skills and the ability to make quick, potent decisions.

Maybe the most important decision making role that a project manager faces is acting as a resource allocator. Creating and adhering to a schedule and budgetary constraints is imperative for completing a project on (or ahead) of schedule and under budget.

Differentiating between hard and soft deadlines – more on this in a second – is also a cornerstone of being an experienced resource allocator, and this skill becomes even more important when multiple teams are counting on you.

Self Assessment of Competencies 

Taking out a piece of paper and noting how well you stack up in each of these ten roles and three overarching categories can help inform when, for instance, you might need to step up and take a more proactive role in resource allocation within your organization.

Alternatively, a self-identified under performance in your ability to act as a disseminator of relevant changes in the project, its timeline or resources could help you prioritize valuable information in the context of reaching project benchmarks.

Resource Allocation and Juggling Projects 

Learning how to prioritize to make optimal use of human resources and budget limitations is at the heart of becoming a great resource allocator.

Effectively managing these resources hinges on a somewhat unsexy skill that nonetheless becomes more imperative the more projects that you take on as a manager: scheduling.

Hard and Soft Deadlines 

Scheduling in the context of project management boils down to drafting a list of all of your deadlines then further sorting these deadlines as hard (i.e., unmissable) or soft (i.e., flexible). Differentiating these two kinds of deadlines helps managers in a few ways.

Simply being forced to put all of your deadlines into writing can help you prioritize each project that you’re working on and take into account budget and time constraints.

Realizing that some projects can be completed in days whereas other could take years of future work as a resource allocator and acting as a liaison among other project managers might lead to a reshuffling of resources or a project’s perceived value for the organization.

Dissemination and Coordination 

Once you’ve determined which deadlines are hard and which are soft, it’s time to step into your interpersonal role as a leader as well as your information role as a disseminator by informing team members and staffers about the project’s updated timeline.

Coordinate with other project managers to determine whether your hard deadlines are compatible with their expectations.

Another manager might determine that one of your prioritized hard deadlines is, in fact, less critical to hit in the next month than taking on a fresh project. This would actually require taking on Mintzberg’s decisional role as an entrepreneur, staying on your toes and adapting to changing circumstances.

Project management is, after all, a combination of know-how, interpersonal skills, relevant decision making and adaptability.