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This type of conflict highlights the importance of stakeholder involvement. You can't solve the problem by yourself or even within the project team.
That being said, don't bring the problem to the stakeholders, bring solutions. Develop the various scenarios that can be achieved including partial deliveries, more resources, time extensions, etc., and bring the stakeholders into the mix - kicking and screaming if necessary. A project leader is in charge of solutions.
The alternative is to try and satisfy all stated needs and most likely fail all.
Its one thing to fail to meet external demands, its another to fail to meet promises. At the end of stakeholder discussions your last commitment should be: "This is what I can deliver with the given constraints. If its not acceptable, you are going to have to help me adjust the constraints along the lines I have suggested."
I worked in localization for many years, so I can relate to what you're saying. It has become **incredibly** fast-paced in the past 5-10 years.
It is unusal these days to use Waterfall in localization, so I'd recommend moving one project to Agile.
See how that goes, and if it works well, transition the other two projects. That gives you a sprint burndown KPI, which could be rolled up into a global annual burndown KPI for your management reporting.
However - agile is a cultural item just as much as it is a project management methodology. I'd get management buy-in for the agile pilot before expanding agile to all your projects.
If you can stagger the starts of the projects such that there isn't an overlap in similar activities, then this is somewhat manageable, but this is fundamentally an issue of commitments being made ignoring the capacity and throughput of delivery teams.
One thing you could do is to use schedule buffer management (one element of critical chain scheduling) to create shock absorbers before key milestones such that delays caused by team member utilization on other projects can be partially absorbed.
As a longer term solution, I'd suggest you and your leadership team learn about ToC and its application in knowledge projects. Steve Tendon's work on Tameflow is one place to start...
Create a matrix for all the tasks from the projects and try to level the resource among the project as well. Also, Kiron made some valid points that can be helpful.
Two things I would recommend are 1) Don't overbook your resources and 2) Be ready to actively manage conflicts.
This is common on big projects/programs where multiple teams support major milestones also. The milestone doesn't move so you can't stagger the work. If you can't stagger the work, build in surge capacity. If you staff at 100% of plan, then you will lack critical resources when everything is due so ensure you plan to only about 80% so you can absorb the rush.
During the chaotic period when everything is due at once, plan on having regular meetings such as a morning stand-up, to work those out. Construction and manufacturing teams do that every day to plan work, move people between jobs, etc. That works in the office too.
Great inputs from everyone especially Kiron's. Stagger your project plans in such a way that certain key milestones do not conflict and have sufficient buffer to absorb resource impacts. Keep in mind there are certain phases or milestones that could potentially trigger changes or need extended time from a specific resource so better to identify those tasks ahead of time, prepare an associated risk plan and most importantly engage the stakeholders so they are aware of the risks and mitigation plans all along. Good luck!
my advice would be first to stay calm. Understand your emotions and try to control them, e.g. by meditation, yoga, walking in fresh air. If you feel stressed and overburdened and alone with your problems, you cannot think as good as you need to. If you have a mentor, ask them, if not get a mentor.
Consider and analyse your problems and their context, visualize them. Only then find at least 2, better 3 options for each (divergent thinking). If you have a team you trust, involve them.
Compare the options and select one of them as the solution (convergent thinking). Solutions might be what the others said.
We all were in these situations, it is a good learning opportunity for you.
One of the dangers here is that you go reactive rather than proactive. You, and the team, bounce from crises to crises based on who applied the latest and greatest pressure losing effectiveness and resource time you don't have. You must have a plan even if the plan has to be modified. Also be aware the stakeholders will apply direct pressure on individuals within the team which will undermine your ability to lead. Additionally, team members may have their own opinion as to priorities and work preferences - again affecting your leadership.
Bottom line, be aware of all the risks and mitigate. That's the leader's role. It wasn't meant to be easy, if it was someone else would be assigned.
Thanks for discussion
To add, consider how good the solution will be delivered for each of the project and whether you will be paid by the customer. Remember the project deliverable that should be delivered with good quality.
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