Projects and deadlines are synonymous. If you have ever run a project, you know the greatest threat to the success of the project are timelines and deadlines. If your project misses a deadline, this can snowball into a higher budget, unhappy clients, missed market opportunities and an overall failure of the project.
Hitting those deadlines is therefore a mission-critical aspect of any project. But how do you hit the deadline when there are so many moving parts? You have suppliers, contractors, clients, management, and a host of other things that could lead to a missed deadline.
That’s a challenge most projects face. Here, we will go through seven things you can do to help you never miss a deadline again.
Under Promise And Over Deliver
Whether it is an internal project and you are dealing with management or an external project dealing with clients, under promising and over delivering always works. In either case, you will in most cases be called upon to estimate the time it will take to complete the project.
When this happens, you want to be as pessimistic about the timelines as possible. Even if you have completed a similar project within a set time, always under promise. Never say you can finish it in a week and yet you know every well that a week would be a tight deadline.
In such a case, estimate it will take three or four weeks. If you do manage to complete the project within a week, you will come off as over delivering. If not, you will have ample time to finish the project within the new deadline.
Have One Person In Charge
This is another issue that plagues projects. No one is ultimately answerable for project success or failure. Make no mistake, there are people in charge of various aspects of the project, but who oversees everything?
Not having one person where the buck stops means the buck will keep being passed on and deadlines will be missed with no one responsible. To avoid this, ensure you have an experienced project manager in charge.
For this role, pick someone with the right qualification such as one who acquired a PMP Certification in San Diego, CA. Such a person will have the training to manage the project end-to-end and catch issues early. Poor project management will not only make you miss deadlines, it may cause the entire project to fail.
Subdivide The Project
Milestones are the key to successful projects and hit deadlines. If you are running a large project, avoid large milestones that may take ages to hit. For example, if you are building a complex mobile app, avoid a milestone that simply says code the app. This ambiguity and generality will mean the milestones will not be easy to hit.
Subdividing the project will also make sure you can easily track incremental progress over time. For instance, having each milestone with a self-imposed deadline will help you know when the major deadline will be hit. Working with milestones will also help you isolate areas of your project that may need more time and allow you to plan accordingly.
Clarify What Success Means
Now that you have some milestones in place, what does successful completion of each mean? As there are multiple players in the project, answering this will help them all know what playing their part means for the success of each milestone.
If it is a supplier, they will know that if they do not supply at a certain time, they may cause a missed deadline and failed milestone. If they simply think they must deliver, regardless of the timeliness, then they will not play their part well.
With everyone on the team knowing what success means for each milestone, they can all focus on working towards that. That means milestones can be completed in time and the overall deadline achieved.
Avoid Scope Creep
This is another major issue that project teams face. You start a project but soon, the project has morphed into a chimera of the original requirements and other new requirements. What this does is that it adds to the time required to complete the overall project.
Scope creep always happens at the project leadership level. While other project team members may suggest and even recommend changes, the ultimate decision lies with the project lead. If you are leading a project, be aware that scope creep will almost certainly affect your deadlines.
It does not matter how small the scope creep; these changes often snowball into bigger issues that ultimately require more time to resolve. To avoid this, as much as possible, avoid scope creep. If you cannot, consider the next point.
Communicate Issues Early
Every project has its attendant issues. These may include scope creep, as mentioned above, supply delays, natural disasters, etc. All these are in many ways unavoidable. The solution here is to communicate them to stakeholders early.
If a supplier is experiencing a delay, do not sit and hope you can make up for time lost. Communicate this and see if you can negotiate a deadline extension. Failing to do so will ultimately mean you are stuck with the original deadline.
This with everything having been moved up the timeline owing to the delay. You are better off securing a deadline extension, and thus avoiding blowing a deadline, than keeping the original one and blowing it.
Constantly Manage Expectations
Throughout the project, all parties involved will have certain expectations of the project, each other and you as the project owner. These will revolve around payments, deadlines, requirements, etc.
How you manage all these expectations will have a critical bearing on your project. If a contractor was expecting requirements within a week and they are delayed from another contractor, move quickly to manage these expectations and mitigate any blowback.
The last thing you want on a project team is a blame game. To keep everyone working in tandem, manage expectations and keep everyone on the same page. By doing this you will make it more feasible to hit the deadlines you have.
Project management can be daunting. Finding a way of keeping everyone working in concert is the real achievement in any project. Doing this will make it possible to beat deadlines and perhaps achieve overall project success.