Let’s bring back the real meaning of “deadline” in projects…

Do you know the real meaning of the word deadline? Its origins go back a long way. Dictionary.com suggests it is:

“a boundary around a military prison beyond which a prisoner could not venture without risk of being shot by the guards.”

I have spoken to many people who complain that the person “did not deliver against the deadline”. Issues such as the “figures did not arrive before the deadline,” or “the report missed the deadline” and “because of this we will have to wait further three weeks before the committee meets again.”

It is the main responsibility of the project manager to check that whatever is due actually gets delivered. From evidence given to me it seems that more rigorous systems are needed to ensure delivery takes place on the correct date it should and that the quality of the product is what is required by the client.

What could be included in such a process? Here are some possible examples:

• a variation form – this is a simple form that shows which activity will not be delivered by the due date or budget. However, before everyone starts developing a variation form see next few points

• hold review meetings. At the start of every project the project manager should engender the honest reporting code. It is exactly that, honestly reporting where an activity is, against the plan at the meeting. You may want to use some of the project management templates we have

• ensure people adopt the Margaret Thatcher approach when she said of Lord Young “He brings me solutions, not problems”. The person delivering the activity needs to develop solutions to non delivery or problems, and it’s this that gets discussed at the meeting

• I had a boss who held what we called ‘production meetings.’ These were held every 2 weeks and we had to bring along proof of where we were at against the plan. He explained that he simply wanted to ensure that we were on course and wanted proof of it!

• ensure project team members receive project management training

• leadership – you could adopt the situational leadership approach – this is an excellent tool where the project manager uses a range of styles to bring about project success:

 directing
 supporting
 coaching
 delegating

This approach suggests that the project manager uses different style for different people against different tasks

So, let’s go back to the definition of the word deadline. When someone says that they have not delivered, suggest you are bringing back the real meaning of the word deadline (“a boundary around a military prison beyond which a prisoner could not venture without risk of being shot by the guards.”) That should ensure delivery on time, on budget and with the right results.

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