Project managers already have a ton of work to do, and as if that weren’t enough there’s always a deadline looming. No matter how well the project is done, a huge part of the overall team performance is scored on whether everything got done on time.
With that in mind, there are a few strategies project managers can employ to make deadlines:
#1. Set pre-hard stop deadlines
You know that girlfriend or boyfriend that’s always, always thirty minutes late no matter what, but then you can’t get too mad at them because every second with them is worth it? There are a lot of developers out there who are the exact same way. They do world class work, it just might not come in on time. No matter how hard you ride or cajole them, write them up, threaten to fire them, or whatever, the work is going to come in late.
Try setting pre-hard stop deadlines. So, if the project phase must absolutely be done on, say, March 1st, give yourself some padding and set a soft deadline earlier. This might seem a bit manipulative, but it also gives you time to review the work and if it’s not done right, request modifications. Just make sure you give yourself enough extra time for these revision requests to come in as well.
And, remember this will never work if the strategy leaks and you brag about how you trick your team to turn their stuff in on time.
#2. Pair Procrastinators with Performers
If you have a solid team of performers who get their stuff in on time, then pairing a procrastinator with them can apply peer pressure and the whole weight of a culture built on timeliness. Be careful that this doesn’t backfire by closely monitoring the team. Worst case scenario is the opposite happens and your entire team goes from punctual to lazy!
#3. Daily Scrum
One of the worst feelings for a project manager is finding out close to the deadline that a team member isn’t just running late, but that they’ve done nothing at all. This is the classic case of a student scurrying to do a term paper in one night when they’ve had all semester to do it. At that point, no matter what, the term paper isn’t going to be that great, a C job at best.
It’s always important to require regular check-ins from your team, but without opening up a troubleshooting space, even that may not be enough.
Scheduling a daily fifteen minute scrum—set it at an odd time in the day, like 10:20am so everyone remembers—can not only help the team stay on task, but leverage everyone’s skills sets to troubleshoot any setbacks.