One of the most difficult situations for any project manager is to push back on the deadlines. No matter how much effort you put in, there would come a situation where you do not have any other option, but to request the client to extend the project deadlines.

This is indeed a very critical situation. But, considering the larger picture, a project manager must put his foot down in some situation.   

So, what exactly are those situations?

Project managers should agree to the deadlines only after analyzing the capacity of the team, the bandwidth of the resources, and the status of the running projects.

I always believe that as a project manager your loyalty should be slightly higher to your team than to your client. So, when you sense that accepting the deadline will make your team stressful, it is best to say ‘No’.

But push backs are never easy. Ask me! I had to do a couple of pushbacks last month. Trust me, it is not a good space to be in.

Due to the high competition, the risk of losing the project is always high. So, it needs to be done with utter care.

Here are the tips on how to push back on deadlines effectively:


1. Give assurance:


When you request the client to extend the deadline, they might feel that their project is less important to you and your agency. They will lose confidence in you and consider to look for an alternative.

So, it is important that you give them assurance that they are your priority and you will do your best to deliver the project in the fastest feasible time.

‘Feasibility’ is the keyword here. When you give them assurance, make sure you do not give them any false hopes. They should know you can do only what is possible. 


2. Be transparent:


In continuation of my above point, in order to avoid giving them any false hopes, you should be as transparent with them as possible. 

When you have to deliver the project in the shortest time possible, it is not idle to keep some buffer time for delivery. Instead, it is advisable to keep the client totally aware of the delivery schedule.

For example, our delivery process involves 3 steps: Storyboarding, Programming and Quality Assurance. In the pushback email, I share the complete schedule with the client. I tell them when we are scheduled to finish the programming, how many days it will take for the testing etc.

It enhances their confidence in you and also helps them to plan things accordingly at their end. I feel secure!


3. Share the solution and not just the problem:


Nobody wants to listen to the problem, especially client! They hired you to make their life easier not stressful.

So, when you experience any problem in a project, do not share it with the client straightforward. It is best that you analyze the situation and find the best possible solution for the problem.

And then, in your pushback email, make the client aware of the problem and give them the possible solutions. 

Showing you’ve thought through the possible scenarios is key to a convincing argument.

Ex: For one of our client, we have a very short deadline. It was not very desirable at the client’s end to push back on deadlines as they required the product for their cycle meetings. So, we brainstormed the situation and gone back to the client with a solution.

We offered them to deliver the beta version of their meeting and then while they do their cycle meeting, we work on the QA check. The client really appreciated our proactive behavior and accepted our offer. It was a win-win situation for both of us.

In some situation, you need to be flexible enough to go halfway to satisfy your client.


4.Good relationships with the team:


And finally, when you decide to push back on deadlines, you have to analyze the situation and set a fastest feasible deadline.

The one thing that probably helps me is my good, trusting relationship with my team and colleague. It takes time to build that relationship but it really worth it!

If I go back to the team with some urgent work, they trust me enough to believe me and work on my task in priority.

When your team trusts you as a project manager, they take your calls, read your emails and give importance to your work. It saves lots of your time in chasing people for the responses. Which in turn help you to fix a best possible deadline for your project.

So, always invest in the people you work with!


Wrap Up


Pushback is an undesirable situation. It never going to be easy. But, to handle it you need 3 C’s i.e. Care, Confidence, and Communication. 

230 thoughts on “How To Push Back On Deadlines

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