Posted on March 12, 2013 · Posted in Leadership, Management, Marketing, Project Management

So what’s every project manager’s dirty secret? If you are a professional project manager, then you guessed it: missed deadlines. Most will even joke about them. The truth is project managers work with customers and stakeholders and draft schedules, and we make every attempt to stay on schedule, but more often than not, those deadlines and schedules are doomed right from the start.

So why do we play these games? It is most often the case that if a schedule is blown or a deadline has passed, the truth is project managers have no idea when they really will finish the project. Of course, this may seem like a knock to project managers themselves, but the reality is that often times projects get hung up with budget and other policy approvals, contracts or signed agreements, vendors, specifications or requirements, or even that com the stakeholders themselves.

So what can project managers do to help this? Again, if deadlines are missed due to one of the reasons or situations mentioned above, or something similar, there is very little a project manager can do. However, there are some things a project manager can do to help the situation.

  • Track milestones. Project managers should keep detailed and strict schedules complete with project milestones along the way. This way project managers can track each project milestone as it approaches to monitor if a project is on track or not. If a project misses one of its milestones, then the proper follow up and risk management and response strategies should be implemented.
  • Communicate with your team. In addition to tracking and monitoring project milestones, it’s also important for project managers to communicate and hold ups in the production process. Project managers should go over the schedule and project milestones during team meetings or conference calls to make sure everyone is on the same page.If there is a hold up with the project itself, again, with contracts, approvals, or even stakeholder requirements, then it’s also best to communicate these as well. You may not always have the answers, but you have the power to communicate effectively.
  • Follow up with stakeholders. If there is a delay in the schedule due to an error or mishap in production, or with a change in specs, or with volatile customer requirements, it’s always best to communicate these hold ups with stakeholders, even if it isn’t easy.If stakeholders are behind the hold up, or the reason for missing milestones and schedules, then it’s best to follow up with them on a regular basis to show them your team is on top of it and that you care about the project’s overall success.

Deadlines are probably the one element of project management that keeps project managers up at night. Deadlines can be incredibly stressful, especially in the event that projects get held up, milestones are missed, and deadlines go flying by. While this isn’t always on the part of the project manager, there are ways that a project manager can help these situations. Just as dancers are told if they are going to fall to fall gracefully, if projects are going to fail or miss deadlines, stay on top of them to the end.

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