Anyone that has ever worked on a project knows the pain of missing a deadline. It costs money, energy, and stress on all parts and thus most of us try to avoid it. But what if I told you that no matter how good you are with time management and staying on top of things, there are still several ways in which you can cause the project team to miss deadlines? Here is how.
We all know managing a project is an unpredictable game. You can plan, prepare, even consult with your fortune teller, some things will inevitably go differently than you have hoped. And while you cannot control your partners or vendors, it is up to you to control your own processes.
Too often we forget about how much of a difference this can make in delivering a project on time. Thus, instead of stressing about the outside factors, you should first take a look inside your own company and review how things are done. A faulty process will cause you to miss a lot more deadlines than any other factor.
To help you get started, here are the 5 most common mistakes project managers make. Correct them and you will be on your way to a more efficient and timely process.
1) Lack of direction
One of the most common reasons for missing deadlines is ineffectiveness. Instead of working on a project, teams and companies lose a lot of time in trying to determine what should be done next. Thus, wasting valuable time and resources on something that should already have been done.
If you find yourself in this position, look into project management approaches that emphasize planning on demand and focus on delivering value like Kanban. You can use Kanban boards to visualize team processes and plan tasks in a way that it is always clear what should be done next. With Kanban your team won’t have to wonder what is the next most important task, they will see it and start working on it immediately.
2) Lack of information
Similar to not knowing what should be done next, teams can also struggle to deliver work on time if they are unsure of what the task is. While it is clear to the manager what each work item entails, this information is often lost in the communication and thus time is spent on clarification.
To make sure this issue does not affect your deadlines, always include all of the task-related information when creating a new task. You can do this by adding a description, attaching files, linking to other similar items, etc. While for some, it may seem unnecessary, spending a few extra minutes for writing this information will ensure the task can be begun as soon as a team member is free. And it will eliminate the need for additional communication and explanation down the line.
3) Lack of visualization
Another big mistake when we talk about meeting deadlines is not visualizing your process and monitoring the flow of tasks. To make sure everything is going according to plan, it is important to track progress and identify which blockers can affect your timeline.
With modern project management tools, there are several ways to do this. You can use Kanban boards to visualize your company processes and track tasks as they are completed by the team. You can estimate the time it will take to complete each task and compare it to the actual time the team spends on them. Lastly, you can visualize all of the plans on a timeline or a Gantt chart and track if everything is going according to plan.
Either way, visualization allows you to take better control of the process and gives you knowledge of when you should step in and adjust the course.
4) Lack of employee engagement
Employee engagement is a crucial part of any project’s success. A motivated team will deliver better results faster, while those with less incentive will be more prone to missing deadlines. But how can you engage your team without punishing them about a missed deadline? Try to involve them in the decision-making process.
Many team members get demotivated because they feel they have no say or choice in what they will be doing next. The project manager simply assigns tasks that have to be completed. Instead, ask your team members to choose which tasks they want to work on.
Take an example from Kanban – write down all of the tasks that have to be done in the next new weeks, mark the most important ones and then let your team self-assign. This way, they will feel responsible for the task they took and more incentivized to deliver on time.
5) Lack of actionable decisions
Lastly, one more mistake that causes your team to miss deadlines is too many report meetings and too few decisions. Surely, meetings are important to get in touch with your team and find solutions to issues, but too often this time is used to only report on status. In such cases, everyone simply presents what they are doing at the moment and which issues they may be facing, but no actionable decisions are discussed. Leaving the person in trouble with no help.
To make sure your meetings are about troubleshooting and helping your team, use your project management tools to track progress and evaluate project status. This way, you will not need to spend time learning what everyone is doing at the moment, and can instead discuss solutions for issues or improvements to your process. Time is the most valuable resource of any project, so make sure you spend it wisely.