How to Manage Project Deadlines in 2021
The major criteria for successful project management are delivering projects within the deadline and with quality. It is common knowledge. But achieving it is equally uncommon!
Time and quality parameters are most sought after while executing projects. And the logic lies right in the definition of a project: an endeavor that has a defined goal to be met within specified timelines.
Now, driving a project to successful completion involves a lot of planning, structuring & anticipating tasks and events.
Along with it, you need to ensure you have the right resources, skills, tools, and processes in place to execute the plan effectively.
Primarily, you need to remember that it is a team effort and not a one-man job. Your team needs to be aligned with the project goal and any half-hearted measures by a single team member can derail your project.
The entire project team, supporting processes and technology must all work in sync like a single well-oiled machine. Any chunks in your armor and everything goes into chaos.
To achieve this you must pay equal attention to all aspects of your project right from initiation, planning, execution, monitoring to closure.
Have an approved Scope and Prevent Scope Creep
In our excitement to get going with a new client or business oftentimes, we end up leaving a few loose ends. And they come back to haunt us at the most inauspicious of times and situations.
Before you even think of project execution spend enough time and efforts in due diligence and getting the scope signed-off from the project stakeholders.
The scope document is the project bible. Any issues that may arise during the course of the project can be resolved successfully if there is an agreed scope.
Moreover, you wouldn’t end up in a situation at all if you have done the scope sign-off right!
To that effect, your Scope document must have:
- Absolute clarity of all deliverables expected from the project
- Delivery schedule of all milestones
- Proper milestone to deliverable mapping
- Associated cost (agreed budget) for the entire project plus at a milestone level
- Acceptance criteria of the deliverables
- The change management process for managing scope changes
- Resource management plan
Once you have managed to get these done successfully you are sure to enjoy the following benefits:
- Better stakeholder expectation management
- Increased clarity around project goals
- Well-aligned project team
- Negligible scope change requests
- Focused milestone planning & execution
This sets the tone for effective planning & timely delivery of your project.
Get the Task Breakdown Structure right (WBS)
Refer to the project milestone(s) schedule and start with your tasks management & milestone break down activity.
This is where you:
- identify and create all tasks, subtasks, checklists
- categorize your tasks with relevant custom task types and labels
- define recurrence and set reminders against tasks as applicable
- manage task interdependencies & task linking
- prepare task estimation, start & end dates
- plan your resource allocation
- assess skill gaps, training needs & other technology requirements
The sole objective of getting your task breakdown right is providing your team absolute transparency w.r.t the project plan and what are the desired outcomes.
As a result, the teams have:
- awareness of the project goals
- clarity around task deadlines
- visibility of the overall execution flow
- understanding of their roles and responsibilities
- opportunity for upskilling themselves
What makes this interesting is the fact that the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) is well answered; there is a clear path forward with no scope for uncertainty. Thus knocking off assigned tasks becomes easier and more fun!
Set the project flow
Just as you are ready to get into the execution mode, make sure your project flow is well-defined and contributes directly to the associated deliverables.
Your project will include multiple moving parts at the same time. While you are busy acquiring resources, your team is churning out 1000s of emails, creating multiple documents, using multiple tools simultaneously, and building silos. Prevent it!
Hence, have a well-defined process in place that gives a logical flow to your tasks from start to end.
Be it your communication plan, recruitment, procurement, development, bug tracking or content management use distinctive project templates and flows to prevent missteps.
By doing this, you get to
- align your people and processes
- prevent repetitive manual efforts
- eliminate human errors
- automate the flow of events
- improve process adherence
And most importantly, keep the team from entering into chaos.
Communicate for success
A project communication management plan is a must for your teams.
Spend time to make one at the beginning of the project and ensure everyone in the team has access to it.
Lack or untimely communication will not only disrupt the proceedings but will delay or entirely derail the project progress.
And you can very well prevent it by have a communication plan that:
- defines what to communicate with whom and when
- provides a definite communication medium — emails, chats, meetings, reports
- sets the reporting requirements and criteria
- addresses the reporting needs of all stakeholders
- states which information is to be logged where, when, by whom
- has well defined cut-off times
- details the RACI matrix
The key here is to ensure that the team knows whom to reach out in case of emergencies, can collaborate on a common medium, and keep all information exchange centralized and easily accessible with minimum to no red tape.
Thus, the team is well equipped to proactively handle delays, anticipate any risks, and course-correct as soon as possible.
Monitor, Measure & Optimize
Project progress tracking and reporting are critical to streamlined execution. It is a continuous process.
You are well-off when any outliers are quickly identified and addressed.
More importantly, unless you track progress regularly you wouldn’t know if the execution is in sync with the deadlines.
Identify what works best for your teams in terms of status update meetings and reports.
Some very effective ways of enabling collaboration, resolving issues faster, and staying on-course with the deadline include
- daily stand-up meetings- 15–30mins depending on team size
- automated check-ins- preferably daily
- real-time task status reports
- overdue tasks report
- planned vs. actual hours spent report
- resource allocation report
- resource availability report
- @mentions for task posts and replies
Understanding the nature of the project and identifying issue trends goes a long way in delivering quality outcomes.
You not only know where you are headed but can identify growth opportunities, balance workloads, reprioritize tasks, and provide feedback before it’s too late!
As complex as it may sound, a holistic approach can help your team ensure they meet deadlines without much of a hassle.
To that effect:
- Streamline project communication
- Enable and welcome feedbacks
- Be available for your team
- Keep your team motivated
- Provide 360 visibility of the project requirements and goals
- Use a project management tool
Using a centralized task, time and resource management team ensures
- collaboration and communication is streamlined
- role-based access control ensures data confidentiality & integrity
- information is accessible anytime, anywhere
- remote team management is simplified
- overall project management is easy and smooth
What’s your plan for deadline management and delivering the project on time in 2021?
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