In an ideal world, we’d all finish up on projects well ahead of schedule, doing away with any chance of procrastination and eradicating those annoying little speed bumps that come up along the way. But this isn’t an ideal world, as we all know, and the reality is that, in the IT sector as well as almost every other industry, some 75% of projects fail because of missed deadlines. When dealing with clients and expectant managers, deadlines are just one of those necessary evils of being a project manager but, with small changes in attitude to those deadlines, some pretty wonderful things can start to happen.
Time is something none of us feel we have enough of, but it’s also something that is essential to our success. In this regard, finishing projects bang on the deadline can often feel like an insurmountable challenge and, when it’s met, a huge triumph for the project manager and their team. But finishing a project early is the Holy Grail, with time after completion for tweaks and changes to be made where needed. Without this grace period in which a manager and team members can take stock and reflect on what might still need to be done, important things can be missed and mistakes can be left without appropriate time to fix them.
Working ahead of schedule also affords project managers with more time to manage problems, conflicts and unexpected risks during the project, as well as afterwards, with potential disasters prevented from completely derailing a venture and throwing projects into a state of turmoil from which they may never be able to recover. When working ahead of schedule instead of constantly racing against the clock, then, project managers and their teams are able to stop, deal with problems and then continue without the stress of falling behind on tasks and missing little milestones.
With training for project managers with courses from ILX such as PRINCE2, professionals can learn about key ideas and methodologies that can develop their skills as a project manager, as well as how to apply this knowledge to their everyday roles while working on a project. Offering both theoretical and practical experience through classroom-based or virtual learning, PRINCE2 courses are designed to develop a project managers’ ability to manage projects, teams and guide them to ultimate success with the principles of an internationally recognised project management method.
But, if completing projects ahead of schedule was that easy, we’d all be doing it on a daily basis, but there are a few things that can be done to prevent those things that threaten to reduce productivity and push projects behind schedule from actually happening. The biggest problems for most project managers are:
- Procrastination – faced by project managers, as well as anyone working on something that needs to be done by a certain date, procrastination is something the plagues even the most focused project professionals. There is always something masquerading as more important, more interesting or more urgent – such as email – but, by indulging these things in the moment, it can become impossible to focus on the task at hand.
- Timeframes – experienced project managers will know that, no matter the size of the project, it will most often, somewhat inexplicably, take as long as the deadline allows. That means that the same project can be completed in a week as can be finished in a month, and setting long deadlines can actually curb productivity in this regard. While timeframes have to be reasonable, attention must also be paid to the ability of projects to expand to the deadline assigned.
What, then, can be actively done about these issues? It is human nature to put things off that we’d rather not be doing, but it is the nature of project management that those tasks that seem least appealing are often the most important to the overall health of the project. To motivate yourself and your team, then, it is useful to think of all of the benefits of finishing early:
- Achieve Perfection – perfection is what we’re all going for, of course, but even if the perfectly executed, 100% completed project isn’t always possible, more time affords teams extra room to make sure everything that can be done, is done. When fighting against the ticking clock, it’s tempting to get things to around 95% completion with no time to check and improve things, and this can be avoided when leaving space at the end of project to tweak and change things.
- Domino Effect – logic dictates that, when the previous project is completed ahead of schedule, project managers can actually get started on their next big endeavour early. Yes early. One of the biggest benefits of a new, more efficient way of working is that, with one project comes another, and you’ll suddenly find yourself with more time than you possibly could have imagined.
- Dissipate Disaster – while things are always going to arise that cause problems with a project, whether that’s conflict within the team, last minute changes or software problems, but leaving yourself enough time to cater for this can make the whole experience less stressful, with less chance of disaster making you late in delivery of the project.
It can be incredibly difficult to work to anything but the threat of the last minute deadline but, with so many unknowns when planning a project and so much risk inherent to the process, it can be a major mistake to do this. With all of the benefits of working ahead of schedule and completing projects early apparent to most project managers, a few alterations to the way in which they and their team work can make all of the difference. Many ways in which project professionals can work towards this are learnt through training on courses such as PRINCE2, offered by ILX along with many other project management training courses. Contact us today to find out more about our excellent training