5 ways teams miss deadlines and how to avoid delays
When it comes to managing projects, one of the most important jobs a team has is making sure they are meeting expected deadlines. Ensuring your team is hitting deadlines ensures your projects are on track and your clients are happy. It also means you aren’t losing money to excessive hours or lowering your client’s expectations and trust in the deliverables.
Delays sometimes happen, and occasionally project parameters need to be adjusted to account for unplanned events. However, by starting a project with a clear outline and realistic expectations can help a team stay on track.
There are typical ways that teams miss deadlines, and by considering them before launching a project, you’re more likely to be able to avoid pitfalls. Here, for example, are a few of the most common delays and ways you can help mitigate them:
The deadline itself is unclear
While a deadline may be perfectly clear in a project manager’s mind, it may not be for the members of the team. Project managers should avoid assigning work verbally or using a variety of (often conflicting) ways to alert the team to deadlines. Members can become confused or forget a date if a project manager has a habit of mixing the communication method, from emailing information, to mentioning it offhand in a meeting. Some project managers may even make reference to a deadline in the kickoff stage and never follow up on it until the due date.
Deadlines need to be stated in concrete terms and should be part of a process. Consider adding a task management platform such as Asana or Monday that will show deadlines and even set up alerts for team members so that they can clearly see what’s coming up and what’s expected to be delivered.
The deadline isn’t taken seriously
Past project managers may have set a poor precedent by glossing over or failing to confront missed due dates. Team members may also have been inadvertently trained to see deadlines in more flexible terms.
It’s important, in either case, to hold people accountable for the tasks that have been assigned to them. As a project manager, it’s important to communicate the expectations and be clear in advance what the expectations are. It’s also important for project managers to check in occasionally to ensure the task is on track well before the due date in order to adjust expectations, allocate more resources, or re-assess the workload for certain team members to make sure the task gets done.
More importantly, when a deadline gets hit, project managers should be celebrating the milestone, providing feedback, and praising the team members involved for a job well done.
Avoid arbitrary due dates and practice transparency by communicating upfront why the deadline is important and what the consequences of missing it are.
There’s not enough flexibility in the deadline
If more than a few team members are struggling to hit deadlines, it may be time to reassess the deadlines themselves. Are they too ambitious? Did the project fail to provide an adequate buffer to account for unexpected delays?
There may be more than a few reasons why project managers failed to account for flexibility:
They have a lack of visibility on the team workload (if you don’t know what your team is working on, you won’t be able to predict the amount of time needed for the next project)
There isn’t historical data from past projects, so it’s hard to predict how long each individual task or step will take.
There’s a lot of optimism surrounding the project which leads to project managers overextending their team or having unrealistic assumptions about the amount of workload team members can handle.
The best way to handle issues around deadline flexibility is to utilize technology. Cloud-based project management software (like Jira!) makes it easy to achieve goals and can keep a record of the project that project managers can use as insightful data for the next project.
The project has a poor tracking systems
Project managers should be managing and tracking the work of team members throughout tasks, sprints, and projects. But team members should also have access to this type of information too. Some sort of centralized system that provides real-time visibility to everyone on the project (or in the organization) helps everyone stay in sync.
Teams can save time by making sure there’s one process or protocol for task management. Ensure team members are empowered to manage their own tasks, easily delegate work to each other, and collaborate within the tool.
A great way to do this is to utilize a communication tool, such as Slack. If you are able to link it to your project management software (like Jira), your team members will have more project transparency and be able to communicate more easily to ensure deadlines are not only clear but are visible at all times.
PS: Want to see how Slack + Jira can help your team work smarter? Click here.
Your team has the wrong processes in place
Projects should have repeatable processes outlined, divided into individual steps and documented. However, processes should always be revisited to reflect changes related to the industry, the company, the number of staff, and even the technology. Processes need to be simple and should help alleviate problems related to brushing past deadlines. If your processes are cumbersome and cause more problems than they solve, a project manager should take some time to revamp them and realign them to project and company goals.
When your company is ready to find ways to use Jira in a way that helps teams work smarter, we’re here to help. Contact us today to discuss how our Slack + Jira integration can help your team communicate better.