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Thursday, 24 November 2016 17:08

How Many Projects Can One Project Manager Manage?

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This content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2016.23.11

How Many Projects Can One Project Manager Manage?

Sounds like a riddle. Many organizations wonder how many projects can be effectively managed by one project manager at one time. The answer, perhaps surprisingly, starts with some simple math. Let's use a rule of thumb that project management typically accounts for 15% of a project’s effort hours. In other words, if a project is estimated to take 1,000 hours of effort, you should add 150 hours for project management. Some companies allocate 10% of hours to project management, while others allocate up to 20%, but 15% is a reasonable rule of thumb.

Once we have that basic assumption, you can look at the sizes of projects you need to manage. You can calculate the total number of project management hours and the period of time when the hours are spread. You apply your project management percentage and then you should be able to determine how the number of projects that one project manager can manage.

The place to start is just look at the math for how many total hours are needed to manage a project. Let's look at some examples.

  • Project A, 12,000 hours of effort, one year duration

The project management time is calculated at 1,800 hours (12,000 * .15). Since the project will take 1,800 hours to manage, and the hours are spread over one year, there is a need for a full-time project manager for the year. 

  •  Project B, 6,000 hours, one year duration

In this case, you will need 900 hours of project management time (6,000 * .15). Since the project is spread over year, the project will need less than 20 hours of project management time per week. Therefore, it is possible for a project manager to manage two projects of this size over a one-year timeframe.

  • Three projects

             o Project C, 1,000 hours, three months, 150 PM hours
             o Project D, 2,000 hours, eight months, 300 PM hours
             o Project E, 500 hours, three months, 75 PM hours

In this case, Project C will need 50 hours per month for three month, Project D will need 37.5 hours per month for eight months and Project E will need 25 hours per month for three months. One project manager could manage all three projects since the total project management effort is around 112 hours per month.

Next we can get a little more sophisticated. As you know, project management time does not occur in a straight average number of hours per week. There will be some peaks and valleys of time requirements on each project. For example, the planning process needs a lot of project management time. A project manager could be full-time during planning and then require fewer project management hours per month as the project progresses. This could allow the project manager to start planning another project after the first project stabilizes. However, this is the overall staffing model you would use to determine whether a project manager has too many, too few, or just the right number of projects to manage.  
At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit or contact us at
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