When Deadlines are Missed

Posted by Brad Egeland

You’re cruising along on your project with everything running smoothly.  The budget is on target.  Milestones are being met.  Customer satisfaction is high.  You don’t have a care in the world.  Well, you know what I mean…  there are always cares, but from a project sense things are looking pretty good.

Suddenly, something happens.  The project starts to go off the rails. Now you’re to the point that deadlines are not being met, and projects are completed late. You may have an excellent process for schedule control, and team members are working well together. But in spite of that, you simply don’t meet phase deadlines, and projects aren’t completed on time.

Why?  You’re the project manager but you are a just as surprised as anyone else.  And from a customer standpoint that doesn’t make them feel very comfortable because you should be on top of things.  You should see issues coming before they become real problems.  If it catches you by surprise that translates to your customer as poor project management.  Does this sound familiar?

I’ve found when deadlines become a problem, checking on the following usually helps pinpoint the problem and gets me and my team back on track and working to correct the problem so no more deadlines are missed.

Are more resources needed?

Usually throwing more resources at the problem isn’t the correct action to take.  Often it will blow your budget out of the water while not really solving anything.  The problem is usually deeper than just a resource quantity issue and while this may be a short-term fix, it’s not likely to be a great long-term choice.  More investigation will be needed if you decide to go this route for the immediate need.

Are different resources needed?

Perhaps the resources assigned to the project are lacking some key skills.  Meet with the resources that are responsible for the slipping tasks and see where they stand on this.  Do they need help?  Do you need to bring in a different key resource?  You may need to go to their direct supervisor to get the full answer on this but you must take swift action.

Are your resources being overloaded in other areas?

Check with your resources – they may be overloaded on other projects or by their direct supervisor and you may need to do some negotiation.  They may be getting direction to prioritize their work elsewhere.  If that’s the case you have two issues:  1) communication problems because they didn’t let you know this and 2) negotiation needs to happen with the other PMs or the supervisor so that you can get them focused on your project or get them replaced.

Are task timeframes unreasonable?

When the project schedule was first put together, you do your best to work with your team and customer and come up with agreeable and reasonable deadlines for milestones (with the customer) and individual tasks (with the team).  Sometimes change orders, pressure from above, or misunderstood requirements can leave you with a project schedule that is no longer doable.  And if it’s not adjusted, then you’ll just start missing deadlines.

If that’s the case, then it’s best to renegotiate deadlines with your management and the team as quickly as possible and point out the reasons for the renegotiating.  It’s far better to adjust the schedule in mid-stream and correct the customer’s understanding – otherwise all customer dissatisfaction and frustration will fall to you and your team and no matter what the end result of the project is, what the customer will remember the most is the long list of missed deadlines.

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One Comment to “When Deadlines are Missed”

  • If a team is behind the schedule, slash 25% less productive current resources involved in the project and it will be back on track. The budget re-distribute between remaining members.

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