2018 started with a busy note for me. I was assigned to a project which had critical and extremely strict deadlines. But, I have no complaints! I enjoyed every bit of it. It has been a great learning experience.
I believe that when you are put into a complex situation, it gives you the opportunity to push your boundaries, come out of your comfort zone and explore innovative ideas to make things work.
You are exposed to the new aspects of your own personality which is a great space to be in!
Based on my experiences with this project, I am listing down the top 5 rules that I followed in order to meet the ‘short and critical’ deadlines.
But before I jump straight into explaining the rules, I would like to give you an overview of the challenges I faced as a project manager. It will help you to relate more to the rules that I am going to talk about :)
So, out of various challenges, here are the top 3:
1. Short Deadlines
You must have already guessed by now that one of the biggest challenges of this project was the ‘deadlines’. The project had short and critical deadlines.
- Short – We use to receive the project with a very short deadline. Ideally, when we should get at least 10-12 working days to finish a project, we were given only 4-5 working days.
- Critical – Deadlines were also critical which made us difficult to push back. There were two main reasons for the criticality:
- Due to huge competition in the market, there was a high chance of losing the project to the competitive agency in case of push backs.
- The client requires the product for their sales cycle meeting. So, any delay on our end would affect the proceeding of their meeting and will have a greater impact on their sales strategy as a whole.
2. Involvement of several teams
The projects require the involvement of different teams. The teams involved in the project were Design team, Development Team, QA Team, and Deployment Team. The work of the teams is interdependent.
So, any delay in the work of one has an impact on the overall delivery of the project.
On top of that, some of the team members were working as a freelancer. Working with a remote team made it more challenging to plan things in advance.
3. More than one client
And last but not the least, there was not just one client to deal with. Under one big project, there were several ‘country-specific’ projects. We were dealing individually with the client of each specific country.
This has increased the complexity as it required us to handle multiple projects at the same time which involved the same set of team members.
Looking into the above challenges, I followed the below 5 rules to meet my deadlines.
1. Give heads up
Giving prior information to the team about the upcoming work is very important. It makes them alert about when the work is expected to come and when they are supposed to start the work.
On the day of delivery, the first thing in the morning I do is to send ‘Heads up” email to the team telling them how their day is going to look like.
2. Keep it transparent
A team that is involved in the overall delivery process are motivated to give their 100% in order to achieve the project objective.
As a rule, I always let the team know how their work will impact the overall delivery of the project. It is important for the success of the project to let them know how important they are to the project.
3. Be proactive
When you are handling a critical deadline, you cannot just share the task details with the team and wait for them to come back with the final output You need to be proactive in your approach.
When the team is working on the task, I keep in touch with them during the day through an instant messaging tool such as Skype, Slack etc.
I ask for the status update, solve any issue that could be a bottleneck, motivate them to finish work faster etc. By doing this, they treat your work as a priority and try to finish it sooner.
4. Ask for help
After working as a project manager for several years where 80% of my work involves the human interaction, I came to the conclusion that it’s a myth that people don’t want to help each other.
Most of the people are willing to go extra miles to make things work. If they can, they mostly do!
When I am working in tight deadlines, I always ask for additional help from the team. For example, for one of my project, I asked my QA person to do a quick check to the presentation even when he was not booked for that work. And, if you know it will take just a few minutes of their time so there’s nothing harm in asking.
But, if you want your team to help you at the time of need, you must also help them when they are in trouble. It’s all about ‘give and take’ at the end of the day!
5. Start Early
When you know you have delivery scheduled for tomorrow or upcoming days, it is best to prepare for it in advance. One of my responsibilities is to send task briefs to programming team, QA team, design team etc.
To make it quick on the day of delivery, I prepare the brief template in advance and save it in the draft. It saves me a lot of time.
Following these rules will help you make your delivery process more efficient. I have tested it myself, and it works great!
But before I end this post, I must tell you that as a project manager it is important that you put your foot down in some situations. There are few expectations of the client which you cannot meet. So, in that situation, it is important to push back.
In my next blog post, I will write about how to push back on the client in the most efficient way. Till then, happy working!!