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Teaching Your Team to Deal With Deadlines

~ By Kenneth Darter

The word deadline written in a pink sticky note

Deadlines are ever present in project management, which does not mean that the team working on the project can deal with those deadlines very easily. Perhaps there are new people on the project who are not used to working in a deadline-oriented environment, or perhaps there are people on the project who have never been able to meet deadlines successfully. The project manager must take the lead in teaching the team to deal with their deadlines. The project manager is ultimately responsible for whether or not the project deadlines are met, deadlines that are made up of many individual tasks and the deadlines associated with those tasks. The following concepts will help the team deal with their deadlines.

Two-way Communication

The first thing to communicate to the team about meeting deadlines is to communicate! It is vital that everyone on the team understands the importance of two-way communication in meeting deadlines. Deadlines should be communicated often and in advance by the project manager so that everyone understands the deadlines that are coming down the pipeline. On the flip side, the project team needs to understand that they need to communicate the progress and status of meeting their deadlines. The project manager will be provided with needed support for meeting deadlines.

Task Breakdown

In the project plan, tasks should be broken down into the smallest parts that can be tracked. All the tasks will have deadlines, but within the project plan, some deadlines are more important than others. As the schedule is created and the tasks are broken down into units of work that the project team will perform, the project manager should work to identify the major deadlines that must be met by the project team. These deadlines might be the critical path, or they might be dictated in the contract, or identified by some other means during the project planning phase. All of that information must be communicated clearly to the project team.

Lead Time and Lag Time

Project managers may spend a great deal of time working with the lead and lag time of tasks in the project schedule, and it is important that the project team also understands the lead and lag time for tasks. This will help them see the big picture and stay focused on meeting the deadlines. If they know why they need to wait before starting a certain task or why some tasks overlap and others do not, then they will be able to keep better track of what is going on with their work because they understand the big picture.

Multi-tasking Versus Focus

In today’s world, almost everyone multi-tasks. It seems to be a constant around us. Cell phones and alerts go off on your desk, in the evening, emails ding at you, and even when you are away from the office, you carry your job in your pocket. It is worth discussing with your project team that focusing on one task at a time can be a huge benefit in completing work timely and with quality results. Tuning out the emails and distractions will help everyone get the job done. It can be hard to unplug from all the distractions, but focusing on the work at hand is well worth it when you are faced with hard deadlines that must be met.


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