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Are You Sabotaging Your Project Deadlines by Making This Common Mistake?

Are You Sabotaging Your Project Deadlines by Making This Common Mistake?


    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.

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    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?

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    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.

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    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.

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    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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    Last Updated on February 18, 2019

    How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

    How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

    These days, in a world with cognitive, AI, and extraordinary advances, we have failed at the most basic stimulus: motivation. Why do I say so? Just take a look at these statistics:

    58 percent of managers said they didn’t receive any management training as per a CareerBuilder.com survey. Only 12% of employees leave their jobs because of more money. Research indicates that around 80% of employees leave their jobs due to “lack of appreciation”. Due to fear of failing, more than half of American workers don’t take their paid vacations. 53% of Americans are unhappy at work (not engaged). And 1 in 3 are working in a field they don’t like.[1]

    Archaic people management and HR structures are the root cause.

    “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    So how to motivate employees and boost team productivity?

    Here are 3 key things that you can do to motivate your employees and boost team productivity:

    1. Run Your Team/Group/Company like a Lean Startup

    The Lean Startup phenomena by Eric Ries has been socialized across millions all over the globe. In a nutshell, it is a methodology for developing businesses and products, which aims to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable; this is achieved by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning.[2]

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    Encourage Your Employees

    When you empower your employees (or family members) to do what they deem to be best for a particular roadblock, idea, or improvement, you create magic. You create genuine trust. You enable innovation. The result is happy, inspired employees who feel they have a say in the grand cosmic stage at work.

    Note that increasing the competency level of employees and coaching and mentoring them along the way is key. You yourself, need to do the same. Nourish your brain – and get a mentor that will keep you at the edge of your game.

    Offer Rewards

    Motivation is also intrinsic. The startups I have worked at offered instant rewards — not just fat checks or equity increments, but Oscar-style nominations.

    The non-monetary rewards were actually more coveted, and grandiose: lunch with the CEO, tickets to an Obama fund-raiser, horse-back riding with a world-class equestrian.

    Compare this to a dodgy, corporate, white-cubicle dinosaur that had a “yearly performance review” where both parties dread the conversation. In a world of instant WhatsApp messages, having a conversation about performance, likes and dislikes cannot just happen annually in 60 minutes. Employees need to be rooted in the belief that their manager genuinely cares about them.

    Give Autonomy

    Another key attribute is autonomy. Most employees start brushing their resumes and cruising LinkedIn when their hands are tied in their current positions: approval forms, long meetings, escalations, and more meetings. In the world of agile and scrum masters, deliberating for the sake of deliberating is poison. You will choke the very employees that giddily accepted the job initially to “change the world”.

    Within a reasonable realm of assessment and deep-dives, trust your employees to do the heavy lifting. Give them access to the knowledge, people and resources that help them directly make the choices that will shape the future of your team, and your company.

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    Eliminate yourself as the bottleneck – and interject yourself as a benevolent, servant leader that is the symbol of high-performing organizations.

    2. Apply the 90/90/1 Rule

    I recently saw a video by Deepak Sharma (a leadership adviser) about productivity and this principle stuck with me. Here’s what it’s about:

    Devote the First 90 Minutes of Your Day to Important Project

    For the next 90 days, devote the first 90 minutes of your day to your most important project—nothing else. Do this for yourself and your employees.

    We usually get sucked into the most wasteful, operational activities in the morning which robs our focus, and steers us into an unwanted rabbit hole. So mute your notifications, avoid the temptation to check your exploding inbox, and scroll your Instagram feed later. Instead, focus on that ONE thing that will provide real value to you, your team, or your business/company/home.

    Apply this rule to yourself – and your team. Your team will thank you. Note: If you’re feeling really stretched for time, you can always hack the rule by testing out a “45/45/1” version.

    A To Do Scheduling System

    Another version of this is to use the Kanban concept, developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota. Kanban is a scheduling system employing boards and cards.

    The most basic version is a canvas with “To-do”, “Doing”, and “Done” boards (or columns). Each activity or task is a “card” that moves from one column to the other. I use Trello (a Kanban-inspired app) that is a key system for my personal and professional life. It allows me to understand my workload, their priority, and due dates.

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    I use importance and effort metrics (scores) for each task to understand what is truly necessary in my life to work on. It negates the FIFO (first-in, first out) paradox that has plagued millions of people. Instead, it allows me to take stock of what is on my plate, and then bite on what truly will move the needle for me, my team, my life, and my company.

    With a limited appetite (at least for some), would you eat the veggies, fries, mashed potatoes and leave the sizzling steak? No, you wouldn’t (unless you are a vegan and ended up in the wrong restaurant).

    Approach your work with a weighted vengeance – and encourage your team to do the same.

    3. Align Passion and Skills to Purpose

    The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning, joy and passion.

    “The most fortunate people on earth are those who have found a calling that’s bigger than they are—that moves them and fills their lives with constant passion, aliveness, and growth.” — Richard Leider

    An ace team-member once told me that while she enjoys working for the company we both used to work at, she really hated anything to do with technology. She was more of a “people” person, and did not want to sit behind a desk sifting through lines of code.

    What struck me was that she was in that role for more than a decade and had just spoken up. The good thing is she spoke up. She expressed her desire and interests. And it allowed her to get into a role of her liking within 30 days.

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    Ask If They like What They’re Doing

    If you, or a team member is frustrated, demotivated, or not performing at their best – one of the questions you should ask is whether they like what they are doing. Then genuinely try to help them get to the role they should be in (whether in the same team/company or not).

    There’s a reason why 53% of Americans (and perhaps more or same across the globe) are unhappy at work. A butcher cannot be an ace salad maker. Pursue your passion – and help pave the way for your team. Unlock your potential and theirs. You will command and lead a supercharged team.

    “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

    The Bottom Line

    Sometimes, passion has to be ignited. It is dormant, clouded by busy-ness, buried by wrong career choices, and plagued by non-supportive eco-systems. Some will climb out of it, but we as society — and in the case of business teams — incumbent upon the manager/CEO/leader to foster, grow, and nurture the employee.

    Teach her the ropes. Show her the path. Advise him as you would yourself. Let them lead, and make mistakes. Do not fear them, rather make them the leader you would want to become.

    For your not-so-great team members, understand that it is not personal, it is just not a good fit. Help them move on to the pastures they would be fit to graze on. Hence, hire slow (and fire fast).

    Your team is a reflection of you. Boosting their confidence and helping them achieve the impossible is motivation. Focus on that, and you will have a productive team that you and your company will be proud of.

    More Resources About Team Management

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

    Reference

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