“Deadline”: surely the most loaded term to an employee’s ears. It’s one of the most common project management issues, and can create feelings of dread. Who hasn’t got their own horror story about that missed report, forgotten email, or delayed project?
Meeting project deadlines is part and parcel of project and task management; there’s simply no escaping those impending due dates. But if you change your perception about what a deadline really means, you can use it to your advantage to complete projects on time without the dread.
Before we look into how to meet deadlines without the added stress, let’s take a look at some common project management challenges and how they can impact your time management.
Common project issues and how they impact your deadlines
So what are the project management issues that negatively affect deadlines? There are, in fact, quite a few, including:
- Poor communication: A lack of good communication skills can be a total blocker to delivering projects successfully. If teams aren’t sure which tasks they’re supposed to be working on, or don’t fully understand the project scope, then it’s almost an inevitability that a deadline will be missed. Project managers and teams must therefore promote a clear and transparent work environment, which can be achieved through effective internal communication.
- Lack of accountability: A common project management issue is lack of accountability, where team members don’t have complete ownership of the tasks assigned to them. This can lead to delays, because there is no one person seeing the task through to the end. Instead, you may have multiple staff working on the same task, which can lead to duplicated effort and high project costs.
- No risk management: Part of a project manager’s job is to identify if there are any risks attached to a particular area of the project, and this includes foreseeing any potential for delays. Without this initial planning, teams may dive into a project that’s much bigger than anticipated, leading to a stressful work environment that could have been prevented.
Make deadline management productive
If approached tactfully, setting deadlines needn’t be a project management issue that keeps you awake at night. Instead, it can be a great source of focus.
Setting deadlines for yourself and your team means that you can plan your work effectively around the dates that the project is required, ensuring that everyone remains organised and ready for the task at hand. Without this focus, the project lacks clarity, objectives, and structure, all of which are important for effective project progression.
Use a project management tool to help you plan your projects
For projects of any size, it’s useful to set deadlines manageable chunks rather than one looming deadline for the entire project. Project management software can help with this, allowing you to assign deadlines, objectives, and resources for individual tasks, making everyone’s life much easier. Key features such as proposed completion dates, project team, and RAG status are all clearly displayed on the project dashboard, ensuring that deadlines for each task are easy to spot and review when needed.
Of course, part of changing the way you think about deadlines is to understand that sometimes they will be missed for reasons beyond your control. Having this awareness makes it much easier to anticipate problems and put contingencies in place, such as by extending deadlines in certain circumstances or planning for delays from the outset. This allows you to be agile when setting realistic and flexible deadlines.
Project management software allows you to easily adjust a task or project’s due date, which will trigger an automatic notification to all team members involved, thus avoiding the need to send multiple emails. All changes to a task’s due date are audited, so it’s easy to identify when a task needed more time than was originally scheduled, which will be vital when setting deadlines in the future.
If the worst happens and a deadline is missed, try not to panic. Review and learn from the mistakes that were made, and use this information to create an action plan for next time. Ask your team for feedback within your project management tool’s communication channels, and look out for common themes and reasons why the deadline was missed. With this pool of knowledge at your disposal, you will be better informed to set attainable deadlines, and understand how to mitigate issues in the future.
Check back next week for our fourth blog – How to Solve Project Management Problems: Client Expectations