How to Meet Deadlines without Micromanaging
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The most important thing about being a project manager is the fact that you have to be comfortable being the “bad guys”. However, it’s not fun! It is usually our responsibility to ensure that the team meets the deadline and makes things happen as they should. PMs often monitor the workflow of other members of the project team and may have to intervene to correct errors or apply pressure to ensure that all project needs are met.
PMs face the greatest challenge in managing deadlines. This is due to the fact you can’t support your team in every way possible, and you don’t have the time to spend all day watching them work to ensure they get their work done on schedule. Here are some tips to help you manage project deadlines.
1. From the beginning, set clear expectations
At the beginning of any project, you should have multiple opportunities to communicate clearly to your team when work is expected to be completed. Deadlines should be discussed at the beginning of a project, during project onboarding and kickoff meetings. Your statement of work, project plans, or any other documentation should clearly state any deadlines. I like to give a brief to the team at kickoff that outlines key milestones and objectives with deadlines. I will also make sure there is clarity about who is responsible for what items.
I make sure there is no confusion during kickoff meetings. It’s easy to close a meeting/huddle by asking, “Does everyone understand what they’re doing?” You’ve hopefully built a trusting relationship with your team, so they know they can always ask you questions or speak up if they don’t understand something.
2. Be a team player
Talking about relationships, I’ve said this before and I’ll repeat it again: project management is all about trust, honesty and making sure your team feels comfortable talking to you about problems before they become PROBLEMS. Instead of being the overlord, it is better to be on the team than to position yourself as the deadline-sharking dictator. It can be a great idea to frame your role as one that supports rather than punishes.
Your team needs to know that you are there to help them succeed. People will be more motivated to meet deadlines if they feel that they have a responsibility to help the team succeed, rather than just getting things done to avoid being scolded by the PM.
3. Keep an eye out for it
I have written before about how important it is to check in with your projects and your team. These check-ins are crucial when it comes down to the pace of your project and making sure you meet your deadlines. It is important to check in with your team on a daily or weekly basis to ensure they are not running behind.
There are two benefits to checking in: it gives team members a chance for them to voice their concerns about timing (and they will be honest with each other if you have the right relationship), and it gives you, the PM, a clear picture about where you stand and any worries about work not being on time. This can be done informally, or even via IM or in-person.
4. Show the BIG Picture
When projects are late or missed deadlines, I often look back and see that the problem was not with the team or the individual.