Sometimes the inevitable happens: No matter how hard you have worked on your project, you are not able to meet your deadline. When you analyze the reasons for this, you notice that there is an external dependency that caused the delay. Especially if you have tried to deliver this project for a customer, he/she may feel unappreciated because of the missed deadline.

What makes this situation even more frustrating is the fact that you knew you did your part properly, but the delay was caused by an external factor. It’s no wonder that you are getting mad when this situation occurs. Yet, you have to make a reality check and step in the front of the mirror.

Losing the Momentum

When you work on your own and there are no interactions or dependencies on other people, things are pretty simple: you are just responsible to answer to yourself if you miss the deadline you set for finishing your project.

However, it’s a completely different ballgame when your project has dependencies on other people. Then it’s not just about you and if you manage to do your work on time – the contribution of others is also affecting the project and whether it is or not finished in time to meet the specific deadline.

The major cause for frustration in this situation is that agreed contribution is not delivered on time. Or, if they get back to you, they are not respecting the original agreed-upon deadlines. This might have severe consequences to your project’s progress. In the worst case scenario your project might even halt completely, until the external contribution is done.

Don’t Just Blame Others

Ultimately these kinds of problems are caused by inefficient delegation and communication. And no matter how much you would like to blame others for slowing down the project, also you have to take a look at yourself at the mirror.

Ask yourself: Did you delegate efficiently? Was the delegated work prioritized properly? Was your communication clear? When did you expect others to get back to you? Did you follow-up the progress?

So although others may be doing part of the work, ultimately it’s you who is responsible for being in charge and preventing potential delays as much as possible.

Focus on Proper Delegation

To understand your project dependencies better, sit down for a moment and go through all possible scenarios where an outsider’s help is needed: Is it graphic design? Is it proofreading? Is it setting up your WordPress site?

Gather all the dependencies in a list and gain better understanding of what is needed by when, so that the project keeps rolling nicely along.

Next, prioritize your delegations. Getting the delegated work done as early as it’s possible prevents most unexpected delays in your project.

When you start delegating, communication is also a key. Expressing clearly what you want and by when cuts down all the unnecessary assumptions and everyone is on the same line when it comes to assignments and deadlines.

Also, try to work with reliable partners. Sometimes you may have to work with someone who you didn’t know before. However, if it’s possible, choose someone who you are already familiar with and who you trust. This reduces the potential situations where work is not done within agreed timeframe.

Finally, have a backup plan for your work if everything is not going as expected. This way you can focus on doing something else, until the external contribution is done.

Get Your Project Moving Without Delays

Here are the steps to avoid delays in your project and delegate the workload properly. The goal here is to minimize lost time and delegate as effectively as possible.

  1. Sit down. Make an appointment with yourself and make a list of all the dependencies (to other people) that exists within your project. This helps you to build the right marching order for your project tasks.
  2. Have a plan B. Figure out your plan B in case of delays in your project. For example, if the graphic designer working on your company logo becomes sick and is going to be on a sick leave for the next six months,  what will you do in that situation? It is of utmost important to plan ahead so that you are better prepared for unexpected setbacks.
  3. Choose reliable partners. Who have you worked with before? Is there a good and trusted web designer that could do the design work for you? Do you have a preferred person doing your proofreading? Try to work with those persons if possible. In fact, try to have a central location for your trusted external employees (for example: stored in Evernote). That way you can easily find the right person for the job. On the other hand, if you have to find someone new to work with (for e.g. through Elance, Fiverr or oDesk), try to look for user experiences and reviews first before choosing your professional.
  4. Prioritize dependency work. Once you are aware of the dependencies, it’s time to prioritize them on your project task list. If possible, try to get those delegated tasks out of the way as soon as it’s possible. If your input is required before the task can be delegated, make sure you take care of those tasks that can be found at the top of the task list.
  5. Communicate clearly. When assigning your work, give enough information at once for your hired worker. Nothing is more inefficient than giving too few details to guide those you work with, which leads to unnecessary e-mail correspondence. This in turn causes the delays, as the other person cannot continue with his/her work. Also, provide the necessary information in a clearly articulated manner. For example, if there is a deadline that should be met, communicate that clearly, so that the other person doesn’t have to make false assumptions on when the work should be returned.
  6. Do proper follow-ups. Delegation is so much more than just assigning the task – it’s also about follow-ups. Do you really know the latest status of your task? Is it really going to be done within time? To automate the following, use services like follow-up.cc or FollowupThen to manage the follow-ups the easy way. You can also use your calendar or your task list application (if you use one) to set the reminders.
  7. Know the escalation channels. Do you know what to do when you are not receiving the work back in a timely manner? Do you know who you escalate the issue to if the work is not done? For example, in Elance there are different levels for handling disputes. Try to figure out these channels in advance – just in case things get complicated.

Conclusion

As you can see, sometimes the delays of your work are related to other parties working on your project alongside you. Most of these delays can be prevented by doing some planning in advance, and prioritizing tasks and with clear articulation. Even though others may have caused the delays, it’s ultimately your job to minimize those delays as much as possible.

It’s your turn now: How do you handle dependencies to other people working on your project? How do you make sure that the tasks others are doing are done in time?

Share your comments and tips below.

(Photo credit: Computer Sabotage with Grenade via Shutterstock)

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