We are accustomed to setting deadlines- from completing a project for a client or a simple to do list at home. There is a great amount of satisfaction when we reach our deadlines but in some cases we miss them. Slack time is the amount of time a project can be delayed without having a knock-on effect on other projects. While it is nice to allow for slack time, some projects won’t allow for any room to breathe and may result in projects not being completed on time. While not meeting each and every deadline isn’t the end of the world, it might be a warning sign that the project is in danger.
When you notice you have missed a couple of deadlines it is time to take serious action so that no more are missed. Not meeting more may lead to your customers losing their confidence in you, not to mention you end up in some rather uncomfortable meetings with the big bosses!
When it’s a recurring problem
Missing the odd deadline is understandable. There are factors that we may not have taken into consideration that cause us to fall behind. However, when this is something that starts happening on a regular basis and your team is continuously fighting to get back on track or you feel like the only words coming out of your mouth are apologies, then it is time to change your process.
It’s confusing, your team is well oiled and functions together as a group and it would appear that your process is outstanding but your deadlines are still missed.
What we sometimes fail to think about is the effects this has on the customer. You are frustrated but they are growing more concerned about the reliability of the company and their customer satisfaction is falling. From a customer’s point of view, it seems you have no control over your own project.
Missing deadlines is normally due to one of the following four reasons. By taking a close look at them and seeing how you can adjust your process could be all you need to get you back on track with meeting and completing deadlines and maintaining customer satisfaction.
- Setting unattainable deadlines
As a project manager (again, regardless of its size) we sometimes feel obligated to set deadlines to suit others. Perhaps the client wants it sooner than you had expected or managers are putting pressure on you to complete the project earlier. While it is tempting to fold to this pressure, it is crucial that you set the deadlines based on your knowledge of the project’s progression. Adjusting project deadlines should only be done in order to reach the target date and not because of added pressure.
- Lack of resources
Each project has a certain amount of resources and an allocated budget. By throwing extra resources at a project may just blow the budget. However, in the odd case, a project does need more! Before you start spending in the hope of meeting the next deadline you ought to really analysis the case and decide if this is the solution to be able to meet the deadline. Extra resources will require extra funding so you will have to ask either the customer or your company.
- Overloaded staff
On many occasions, the staff is overloaded and are unable to complete their tasks. There might be a lack of direction coming from management or they are unable to prioritize their workload. Two ways to overcome this are to either improve communication (the staff needs to be able to tell you that they cannot complete set tasks) or the supervisors need to negotiate the staff’s time, discussing which tasks are more important.
Both of these issues are easily resolved by improving communication throughout all levels of the project. It is important that everyone is refocused on the project. Think about the budget and whether it is necessary to bring in more resources in order to get back on track.
- Not having the right skill sets available
It is possible that the team are not quite able to complete tasks or projects because they are missing some expertise or knowledge. Communication is also necessary here, as you will find out by asking if they need assistance or alternative resources. It might be beneficial to speak the supervisors to get a clearer picture. It is another case where speed is of the essence. You might need to replace resources and if so this will affect your budget, be prepared to adjust it!
If you want to complete a project successfully on time in a cost-effective style and without giving you headaches, then hiring a dedicated team is your best option.