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Keywords:

  • project management;
  • switching;
  • priorities;
  • monitoring;
  • experiment

Project switching occurs when a multi-project worker shifts his/her attention from one project to another before completing the first project. In this study, we study the effects of two areas of management policy on project switching behavior, project prioritization, and work monitoring. We conduct a controlled experiment to evaluate direct and combined effects of prioritization, scheduled progress checks, and managerial progress checks on project switching behavior in a distributed, multi-project work environment. We use computerized tasks constituting multiple projects as a means of efficiently simulating a project work setting. Working professionals served as subjects for the experiment, thereby enabling us to control for experience and other individual differences that may vary across workers in real-world projects. We find that clarifying priorities has little overall effect on the prevalence of switching in our multi-project setting, while the presence of managerial progress checks has significant and distinct impacts, driving up switch tendencies. Interestingly, various attributes of the timing of these monitoring events also significantly impact the likelihood that workers will switch in response to these event triggers. We discuss the implications of these findings for managerial practice and for future research.