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Øyvind Røberg

Øyvind Røberg

Of course, deadlines matter. Meeting deadlines is an important part of any project and any business. They are set to signal the completion of tasks and project deliverables. Projects across industries strive to meet their deadlines. Delays and missed deadlines can turn into project management nightmares.

Experience tells us that even perfect schedules slip. Put in short, things don’t always go according to plan.

We have a schedule and are moving forward. We have weekly reviews with the team, and we find that dates keep slipping and we miss our deadlines. It’s too easy to let things drift, thinking that we will catch up before it becomes a serious issue. Until, of course, someone starts screaming, “why hasn’t this been completed yet?”

Caught by the surprise of missed deadlines it's likely that you will be faced with questions like:

  • Why are we delayed?
  • What is the impact of the delay?
  • What is the impact on the overall project schedule?
  • Can we recover?
  • What do we need to do to get back on track?
  • Can we limit the damage of slipped tasks and deadlines?


Why do deadlines keep slipping?

There are many reasons deadlines slip. It spans from inadequate estimating, and unrealistic deadlines to poor morale and lack of pride in getting things done. Here is a list of 11 major reasons.


Poor planning and scheduling

An obvious reason for delays is the effect of aggressive, optimistic, and unrealistic project schedules. Deadlines and delivery dates may have been imposed on the schedule by a project stakeholder. Stakeholders often set deadlines they think are perfectly reasonable. When dealing with deadlines make sure you understand what’s needed for the job.

If plans and schedules change often and easily, the project team is likely to take deadlines less seriously.

Poor and inadequate project planning and scheduling is a top reason for project delays and project failure.


Student syndrome

Student syndrome refers to when a person (student) will only start an assignment at the latest possible moment before its deadline. This eliminates any potential safety margin and puts the task (and person) under stress and pressure.


Lateness is passed down the schedule

The delay forces the next task off schedule. Lateness in one area or on one task may get pushed down the schedule causing delays in succeeding tasks. It’s identical to how a late incoming flight causes your flight to Rome to be delayed.


Bad morale

Lack of accountability coupled with a relaxed attitude amongst team members and stakeholders will challenge your schedule and your deadlines. If team members deliberately ignore deadlines and hand-over dates, they cause delays and put other team members under stress and extra pressure, expecting them to fix the delays. Bad attitude and bad morale are potent project poison that will damage the project.

And what if one of your teams releases a document package on Friday to meet the agreed deadline knowing that it is not complete, and then withdraws the package the following week? Reporting it complete gets them temporarily off the hook as the progress report shows completed. But it’s not fair. The employee waiting for the information in the documents may be unable to proceed with their planned work.


No pride in accomplishments and getting things done

This is another issue that could have been listed as bad morale. If team members don’t care about deadlines or getting things done it will likely ruin your chance of finishing on time. To some extent, they may be rescued by other team members with better spirits and attitudes putting in the extra effort to save the deadline.


Project managers hide slippage and delays

For different reasons, project managers may want to hide delays and slippage, hoping to recover sometime in the future. Early in the project, delays and not meeting deadlines can be seen as poor planning and scheduling. Later in the project, delays may be a signal of poor performance. Either way, the project manager risks losing face.


Failure to report progress

Failure to report progress and failure to report progress regularly stops you from telling the status of your project. By tracking progress and time, it is possible to know how much time is left before the deadline of a specific task or project. Excellence in project management means being able to keep your finger on the pulse of progress, to know what has been achieved, what’s to come, and what’s going on.


Lack of resources assigned to your project

Projects compete for resources and competence. Unless your schedule is correctly resource-loaded, you can’t tell what resources are needed and when. The result may be that you do not have the required resources available to complete the tasks.


Working out of sequence

Skipped and out-of-sequence work on projects is disruptive to workflow and damaging progress and labour productivity. It is a condition in which the originally planned, and probably most efficient and logical, work sequence is interrupted and changed.


Increased scope

Unclear scope, increase in the scope of work mid-project and scope creep is one of the top reasons for project delays and slippages. If your scope of work increases but no time to do the extra work is allocated, you are at risk of delaying the project and the deadlines.


Bad communication

Communication is key to project management. When upper management and stakeholders are kept in the dark about deadlines and deadlines that were not met and the team members don’t know what is expected of them, the project will fail. IT won’t be on time.

Make sure there is clear and consistent communication about:

  • Project goals
  • Project deliverables and what is needed to get the job done
  • Roles and responsibility
  • Schedule, progress, and status
  • Changes
  • Issues and risks

If communication between all project members is thorough, the project is more likely to reach its goals and deadlines.

The project schedule is likely the best tool available for managing day-to-day communication on any project.

In short, keep your stakeholders informed.

All projects need an organized schedule and organized management of time. Large complex schedules may have thousands of activities, logic, and resource assignments requiring a formal scheduling system. But even the smallest projects need to have at least a one-page master schedule to guide them. Keeping a steady pace will make a difference at the end of the project. Deadlines may not be liked as they approach at an increasing speed. Meeting those deadlines is a necessity for keeping your project on track.

Don’t forget that good project management software is an effective tool when it comes to building schedules, tracking progress, and communicating and visualizing any slippages from the plan and the consequences of missed deadlines.

Would you like to test Safran Project or Safran Planner for free? Please contact Jorgen.aasland@safran.com for more information.

The Gantt chart is one of the most used visuals in the world of project management and project controls. You may want to view “the Gant Chart” mini-series.

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