Missed deadlines

Missed deadlines

Your whole life is a deadline – the word itself is an accurate description. From the moment of birth you have, or are expected to have, aspirations to learn, to acquire basic knowledge – even with the world of Google at your fingertips – to grow, to contribute, to succeed. By the age of seven, maybe even earlier today, you are expected to know the difference between right and wrong. By late teens you are expected to vote for your government.

In addition to these social deadlines you will increasingly be given deadlines in your work. Often they will be called KPIs. Nothing wrong with deadlines for some events; almost everything wrong with KPIs in today’s world. Time targets, which is what deadlines are, are good for pacing us and beating the competition. They were abused by the Boeing company who forced their engineers and designers to cut corners on the fated MAX aircraft. Deadlines have to be used carefully, with great discretion, or they can kill people.

But what of missed deadlines? You have perhaps noticed a strange thing about them. You sweat and strain to achieve a deadline, especially if your job depends on achieving it. But the minute you have missed it you relax. The principle of “hung for a sheep” kicks in and you think that if you are going to be late it really doesn’t matter much how late. This can be dangerous for two reasons. First, you may damage the project on which you are working. Your deadline was, after all, there for a purpose. Maybe a few hours or a couple of days late doesn’t hurt it too much. A month will possibly kill it.

Second, you may give up on the project, abandon it altogether and go on to something else. We all have a litter of abandoned projects in our lives. Some don’t matter, some do. That shouldn’t be decided by whether or not we met or missed the deadline. So here are some thoughts you may care to consider whenever you start a project, however modest. They will help you see what matters and what doesn’t.

[1] Do I believe this project is in line with the strategy we are following? If not, how much out of line is it? If it is opposed to our strategy I should speak up and try to stop it.

[2] Do I like the project? Do I want to do it? If not, what are my reasons? Do they amount to a sensible basis for stopping the project or for my being removed from it?

[3] If I like the project and can work on it happily, do I accept the deadline or KPI associated with it as far as I am concerned? If I think the deadline(s) are wrong this is the time to say so. Arguing the case for a longer deadline later is dishonest and probably won’t work. It will certainly damage your reputation.

[4] Should I discuss the deadline with others? Fellow workers? Superiors? The Boss? I have to fit in with the team so I should share my views with them.

[5] If I am to go ahead with the project I should put the progress dates in my calendar or diary. Achieving a deadline means achieving the interim progress stages of the project – or understanding why you haven’t.

Simple ideas which few consider when being asked to start a project. They only take a few minutes to ponder.

Doing so could be the difference between success and failure.