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Being Proactive: How Not To Miss Your Deadline
As you climb higher and higher on that precarious corporate ladder, you’ll eventually reach the point where you’re responsible for a deadline that depends on other people. An example of this would be if you are leading a team designing software, and you are responsible for doing all the designs by a certain date. You are responsible for the end result (all designs done), but you need your team to write the designs to actually make it happen. What if your team doesn’t meet the deadline? Who takes the blame? It’s a simple answer: you.
With this idea firmly in mind, how can you stop missing deadlines? This is another simple answer, and yet many people don’t follow it: be active. What does it mean? Well, I’ve had a good time missing deadlines because team leadership doesn’t check if their team is on track until the last minute. Finding out that three designs aren’t being done the day before the deadline doesn’t do you any good, because it’s too late to do anything about it. However, if in this case you had checked a week or two before the deadline, the result might have been different. This is happening active. For our purposes, we can define this as your deadline taking action with enough time to correct any issues.
Here are three things you can do active As a team lead on your projects:
- Have regular meetings – Not only every time and some time in flight, but scheduled meetings. This means that your team knows that you meet at a certain time on a certain day every week. For example, you could hold a 10:00 AM meeting every Monday morning to start the week and make sure everyone knows what they need to work on. Also, you can have a Friday afternoon meeting at 3:00 pm to wrap up the week. You don’t have to go overboard and have a meeting every day (unless you’re really in deep trouble), but I’ve found that once or twice a week is effective. Make sure you also have a structure to the meeting, and that it’s not just everyone talking randomly. You need to operate it and have a clear agenda for when you want to get out of it.
- Keep a tracking spreadsheet – This is another important organization tool: the tracking spreadsheet. Yes, it’s a pain to maintain. However, it will save you a lot of trouble in the future. With this spreadsheet, you can see your team’s progress at a glance. This makes it easier to go to appointments with them and ask questions about who is slipping or who is leaving early and why. This can save you deadlines by allowing people who are ahead of schedule to help pick up the slack for those who are behind. Also, it is good for meetings with your boss so that you can give them an easy to understand how your team is progressing. The key point to remember here is to make sure your tracking spreadsheet is up to date. It doesn’t do you any good if you have one, and still no one has updated it for a week. If your team is responsible for updating, remind them to update at the end of each day (or whatever works for you, I find the end of the day to be effective). If you are responsible for updating it, make sure you set aside a certain amount of time to do it daily.
- Check in person – Even if you have regular meetings, you should check progress informally with each member of your team. This doesn’t mean you have a set schedule for it, it could be as simple as stopping by their cube and asking them how they’re doing. This way you don’t have to find out about a problem that happened on Tuesday during your regular Friday meeting. By performing these progress checks, you send a message to your team that you’re in the trenches with them, and that you’re there to help if they have any questions. Plus, as mentioned above, it allows you to take immediate action on a problem instead of wasting your time working with someone for days at a time. Linking to the point above, if you notice a change in someone’s progress while talking to them, update the tracking spreadsheet as soon as you get back to your desk. That way you can see how that change will affect the rest of the team and your deadline.
These are just three methods that I have found that help me be active. There are many other ways specific to your work situation that can help you. A good way to think about your deadline situation is this: whoever holds you accountable to your deadline sees your project as a black box. They don’t want to know the fine details, they know what they want to see. With this in mind, you want to deal with any problems that arise inside the box, not outside it, so that when your finished product comes out the end result is exactly what this person is looking for.
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