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Deadlines: The Fast And The Furious

Posted on | March 1, 2010 | 2 Comments

With deadlines we procrastinate. Without deadlines we don’t get the job done.

Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor of Stanford University and Business 2.0 Magazine columnist said in a 2007 article that setting a deadline can increase the credibility of commitments.

Deadlines not only for projects but for major milestones within projects allow the project team in concentrating on the accomplishing the work.

Most problems with missing agreed upon deadlines arise when such deadlines are unknown or not properly communicated to the team. A good project plan and schedule (that include best case, worst case and most likely case) go a long way in minimizing the risk of missing deadlines.

Some deadlines are dictated by the business based on market conditions (such as competition) and credibility, and the work has to be accommodated inside that time window. Most of these deadlines are missed as well because the amount of work is just too much and cannot be accomplished in that time. However, for most businesses it is more important to go to market first than to have excellent quality in the product or service.

Deadlines that are perfectly achievable are also missed due to a number of factors that must be considered during planning. One of the most important is the resource’s skill set and current workload. Assigning a resource to a task that he or she does not have the correct skill set to perform sets the grounds for failure. Assigning a resource 100% to a task when he or she is already allocated to other tasks and/or projects is a mistake since there is no availability left.

Lastly, reward people for meeting deadlines. They want to be recognized.

Once a deadline has been agreed upon (whether realistic or not) is has to be taken seriously because they are closer than they appear in the mirror.

Deadlines are like promises, they have to come true. Don’t you think so…? Well, I do.


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2 Responses to “Deadlines: The Fast And The Furious”

  1. Anonymous
    March 1st, 2010 @ 8:36 pm

    I believe your final statement is true, unfortunately the real world tells us different in the world of IT projects.

    A deadline is most of the times an indication and it strongly depends on the culture of the people if they take the deadline all too serious.

    The difference is very much noticable when the deadline can no longer be postponed, that is the time where you see the ones that are normally calm and collected turn into panic and stress.

    But, setting a deadline (even if it is not a hard one) is still better then not setting any.

  2. Bob Veris
    May 6th, 2010 @ 8:40 am

    Another name for deadline is perceived task completion date.

    Too often, PMs who create these so-called deadlines are in trouble before the project starts. No, I’m not talking about building a winning WBS (and its wishful thinking) but backing up to the initiation stage.

    Like rules, deadlines are made to be adhered to if possible, practical and appropriate (given all the successor tasks that must follow). If not, and let’s face it–that’s most of the time, task-completion is part of the rhythm of the project at large. So much depends on predecessor tasks completion that a great many deadlines are “missed” … even before the project starts!

    As an experienced PM, I usually try to decompose each project before settling upon a Project Charter. The client-sponsor invariably has preconceived ideas of how-long, how-much, and naturally how-great the product will be. This is when a PM earns her/his stripes, standing up and articulating what must be done, how long it will take, and how much money it’s going to take to deliver what the sponsor expects.

    Your lessons learned should reveal the state of deadlines (and the proper dates to assign milestones). Do it right and you’re an unsung hero. Screw it up and omit this failure on your resume as you scurry off to the next project. Hopefully wiser so history doesn’t repeat.

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