A lot is at stake if an organization fails to complete a project within a deadline. Obviously, you can’t keep the quality at stake while meeting the set due dates for the project. But adhering to quality standards while completing a project in time is quite a challenge.
But not a difficult one to achieve.
Today, let’s explore what experts have to say on this. How do they wish to guide project managers on achieving a set goal within a deadline? Here’s what experts have to say on how to ensure that you meet a project’s deadline.
- Get a real Capacity Planning
To meet deadlines, you first need a planning.
But not only "the drawing of a planning", like we often see.
You need a real capacity planning, taking into account all constraints of your resources: availability, capacity, competencies.
And the most difficult will be to take into account availability of the resources that may be shared between several projects, including some that you don't manage yourself.
Then, you'll need to communicate the planning and most important you must point-out constraints on inputs: all expected inputs must have a due date and you must alert on the impact of delayed inputs.
- Planning is living matter
Drawing first planning is not enough.
Because your planning is wrong (it is just a plan, reality may be different).
You must be able to get live data about resource work on your project tasks: time already spent and reassessed left work, that may be different from planned work minus real work.
So you must teach your team members to input their real work on a very regular basis (the best is every day, and it must be done at least once a week) and to re-estimate left work each time they enter some real work.
This last part is very important because it is the resource that works on a task that can analyze, after starting work on a task, if the estimate was correct or not.
And as soon as Project Leader sees some changes (increasing left work) he may adopt the planning to meet target dates and not react when expected delivery is not ready on time.
- Don't limit to planning
Planning is great, but it's not enough.
For instance, you must draw a Risk Management Plan, to identify any issue that may happen during the project and draw an action plan to avoid these issues or limit their impact.
You must also follow-up very closely dates and quality of inputs: many projects are late not because project team is not efficient, but just because inputs are late or of a very poor quality.
You must be able to point out the impact of delayed inputs and to raise alerts if the quality of these inputs is poor.
- Take care of the change of perimeter
Any change request, even very small one, must be analyzed to determine its impact in terms of cost and delay.
Even the slightest change may have the great impact on the delays.
For instance, an input delivered one week late may lead to delays in delivery of one month simply because resource expected to work on the input won't be available anymore in the new time frame.
- Get the good tool
You have so many things to manage to ensure good execution of the planning and to share information with your team that you must have a good tool that will help you and not require most of your time.
For instance, MS-Project (desktop standard version) to draw a planning will be one of the worst choices: as it is not collaborative, you won't be able to actualize you planning without spending much time to consolidate data about spend time and left work.
So you'll need a real collaborative tool.
Web-based solutions are the most versatile ones: nothing to install for resources, input done by working resource, data shared in real time.
Just take care to select one able to calculate a real capacity planning.
- Make sure your team members are as aware as you are of the business reasons for doing the project, business objectives, and expected business benefits.
- Involve your team in planning and executing the project.
- Avoid meetings for the sake of meetings. If you must have them, make them focused, short and snappy. Try management by walking around.
- Don't "issue" work. Gain team acceptance of the plan and encourage them to select work from what is next in the schedule (if a plan-driven project) or what is on the business priority-sorted product backlog (if an adaptive project).
- Make the work to be done, the work in progress and the work completed highly visible.
- Show stakeholders the results of your team's work often and regularly to achieve buy-in and early signs of deviation from expectations
- Use tools that are easy and intuitive. Avoid complexity.
- Don't load your team down with administrivia. Empower them to get the work done.
- Involve stakeholders every step of the way. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
- The bad news is better related early. If you can't solve issues yourself, get help. Never sweep things under the carpet. Eventually, you will find the carpet has bumps, and someone is bound to trip on them!
- Make sure you understand the risks involved in your project. What can knock your train off the track? How can you avoid it? Plan risk responses in advance and execute those plan when necessary.
- And above all, be human! Your team and stakeholders have lives beyond the project. Get to know them and understand them.
- Make sure that you set realistic deadlines in the first place. Do this by reference to sound estimates of the work involved and the resources available. A solid Work Breakdown Structure and a robust Responsibility Matrix are your friends here.
- Communicate the value and importance of your deadlines. Each one must be set in a wider context, so people understand their meaning and can feel a real reason to prioritize them.
- Provide the support and guidance to your team members that will allow them to work on the tasks effectively and without distraction. Meeting deadlines mean commitment and diligence, so your role as a project leader is to make it as easy as possible for your people to focus.
4. Drew Davison
First of all, understand the source of the deadline. Unless your deadline is etched in stone in response to imposed legislative or corporate plans and priorities, deadlines are most often relative. That is, they reflect the priority and dependency of a project or task relative to other projects or tasks. Or they’re laid down on the whim of an executive. Knowing the nature of the deadline offers a variety of options for managing to deadlines.
- Change the deadline – How often have we seen projects skimp on one vital component after another to achieve an imposed deadline only to have the delivered solution cause chaos and satisfy no one. Check out a recent post, The Great Canadian Payroll Debacle, for one example of what blind obedience to an arbitrarily imposed deadline can reap.
- Adjust scope – Time boxing practices fix the target date and vary scope and resource to deliver on time. Dropping non-essential features and functions, scaling back on non-functional targets like security, compliance, ease of use, services levels, portability, and localizability, at least in the short term, can provide viable deadline management options.
- Manage skills – Project environments are almost always venues for progressive learning and skill building. After all, projects exist to deliver something new. That requires a recognition of and response to the associated risks and opportunities for building and leveraging the needed capabilities. Individual productivity can vary by a factor of ten or more on any given task. Assigning an expert can dramatically reduce time and risk. Assigning a novice can deliver future capabilities and improve staff satisfaction and retention. Matching the novice with a mentor can lower risk and time but impact costs. Recognizing the project and task challenges, resourcing appropriately and adjusting as necessary are essential deadline management practices.
- Collaborate – Perhaps the most important facet of deadline management is collaboration. Decisions regarding a deadline and the potential changes in target dates, costs, staffing, scope, and risks should never be made in a vacuum. Effective multi-way dialogue with sponsors, targets, project and change management, vendors, customers, the project team and others is an essential part of the process. All affected stakeholders need a voice in the exercise and the final decision should always be a collaborative one.
- Know what to focus on when that inevitable unexpected task comes up. Your priorities will make it easy to make the game-time call.
- Begin the day with your highest priority task.
- When your team sees you crushing tasks, they'll adopt your strategy. This also means less supervision and guidance which saves you even more time.
6. Andy Sowards
My wife is a big motivator for me when it comes to deadlines and keeping up with tasks - we have a pretty good "synergy" going where we push each other each day to stay on target with everything. We try to stick to the same routine each day so we know what the day is going to look like and there are several points in the day where we can evaluate whether something is going to be critical to getting done or not.
She'll remind me if she notices something is slipping, and I'll remind her. I try to help myself even further by leaving little reminders for myself where I'll see them - in my email, in a tab in chrome, or on my desk physically. If all else fails if something is super important I'll set several reminders for it on google or via amazon's Alexa - those bots never let me down.
Deadlines and Priorities can be the difference in meeting your goals or failing completely.
We actually have some blog posts I would like to refer you to. One is on Drop Dead Goal Setting and Obsession - The Fuel of Success. Both are focused on setting goals and getting them done efficiently and effectively!
Lastly, we love to use Scrum here. It's an amazing way to ensure progress is being made each and every day. You can read more about that here.
8. Kelly Keith
- Take Them Seriously - The problem with most deadlines is that people don’t take them seriously. Society has conditioned us that there is always an extension or late option. Ask yourself, “What would happen if I missed this deadline entirely?”
- Set Bulletproof Reminders - It’s hard to meet a deadline if you aren’t aware of it. If you’ve ever missed a deadline that you had totally forgotten, you know what I am talking about. Mark your calendar so you can’t miss it. Set reminders that will jog your attention before the deadline passes. These can be alarms, app reminders, whatever fits your work-style.
- Finish Early - Finishing ahead of a deadline is very powerful. Not only does it feel great, but it allows time for unforeseen circumstances and obstacles. So, finish before deadlines to provide yourself some buffer time, so you have time to review your work before final submission.
9. Liz Froment
- Have a calendar/project management tool - This feels obvious but you'd be surprised how many people keep this information in their heads, on bits of paper, or not at all (yikes). As soon as I get a deadline I head to my calendar/project management tool and enter all the information I need.
- Work backward - I'm a big proponent of breaking down monthly/weekly goals and projects into daily tasks. This serves two purposes, first I stay on track with my projects, it's a failsafe to ensure I don't procrastinate. Second, it breaks my projects down into really manageable chunks where I can focus on the step ahead of me not 15 steps down the road. I'm a big believer of getting yourself into the habit of taking small action steps every day.
- Leave a cushion - Things come up, that's life. So I always give myself cushions on projects to prepare for the unexpected. That way, I can stay on track and not feel rushed if I'm out of commission for a day or two.
If you think that working along with deadlines is a tough job, then think again. These expert inputs give you a lot many ways on completing your project within the deadline. And that too without compromising with the quality of your deliverable. One of the most highlighted ways is the use of a simple project management software.
So do not hesitate if a client asks you to complete a project within a set period of time. With these suggestions, you can align tasks, streamline your work process and also boost productivity hassle-free.