Completing projects and delivering their results beyond the deadlines is a very basic problem which all project managers aspire to avoid in all possible ways, because in many cases their customers will have rights to ask for additional benefits (contract penalties ) for missing desirable due dates.
Failing project due dates is a real trouble as it harms competency of the project managers and their teams, as well as reputation of organizations they work for. But due to complexity of some projects procrastinations happen very and very often, even on quite straightforward projects.
While it is a grace if project customers appear loyal and understanding to such mismanagements, project managers and teams need to minimize chances for delaying, and this article is dedicated to practical aspects of this topical question.
1) Why Projects appear Procrastinated?
There are lots of common mistakes and reasons causing non-meeting of the projects deadlines. The most common and obvious reasons are the following ones:
- We underestimate the time we need – if we jump the gun with the project and set its target dates too roughly, without proper elaboration given to project’s details, then we just fail making any accurate and correct estimates, hence we seriously risk to face unforeseen delays on every step.
- Scope changes occur – if the range of work to be done begins varying just underway, old criteria for completion cannot fit it anymore, so since some scope changes are implemented, all other project constraints (time, budget, quality) need to be automatically adjusted to fit updated scope.
- Conception of done is misunderstood – the commitment you are making to your customer should be thoroughly elaborated, considered, and approved many times before to be properly documented to avoid any deviations in understanding of project completion criteria between you and your customer.
- We set unrealistic goals – we overrate our existing resources and possibilities, and undertake to pursue unachievable objectives.
- Too many blank spots on the plan – project plan is underdone, so it is full of omissions, has a lot of unknown components, and hence it is full of unpredicted details, risks and delays.
- The failure to prioritize – people invest too much of their resources and efforts into tasks that are not worth of this attention and wasting.
- Distractions – deceptively small, but daily regular “resource leaks” are one of the major causes of procrastination on a bigger level.
2) Simple Methods to Mitigate Delays on Projects:
There are some common methods used to beat procrastination on the projects in the bud:
- Pre-schedule delays in the plan – the best method to get ready for protractions on tasks is to try foreseeing them. You can analyze risks associated with each of tasks included into your project, and reasoning from these risks you can reserve some additional time on your schedule. Taking into consideration essential risks, impact of a task, and other factors you can create a pessimistic scenario which will foresee some delays. After this analysis is performed, some additional time can be added to each of tasks as a buffer preventing the entire project from delaying because of some critical task being delayed.
- Begin to work with a closer due date in mind – do not align all your planning with a longest due date, but try to intensify pace of work, aspiring to complete as much as you can in shorter terms. It can be explained with such an example: you have 1 year and you need to create a book, your plan is to write 1 page a day, but you may try to shift a deadline to 6 month, so your plan will be automatically doubled (2 pages a day). You need to maintain this pace of work as long as you can so if some days you cannot produce even a page, a higher performance on other days will neutralize these delays, preventing the overall procrastination.
3) Action Plan to Complete Projects on Time :
Though it is impossible to predict all factors and threats that may hamper progress on your project, there are simple instructions to minimize your risks and do everything possible to meet the schedule without a significant delay. Let us introduce this effective action plan to you:
- Organize and expand your ideas, thoughts and project details with your team using mind maps;
- Set completely clear project objectives, so there are no blind spots and space for fancy;
- Get clear with your customer on items included into the project scope and success criteria, and then document them in a special agreement to let you clearly know what you are committed to;
- Establish a procedure for project scope change underway to avoid scope creep;
- Check your resources and tools to make sure you can cope with this work;
- Check what existing templates and groundwork can be used to facilitate your project in terms of routine things and save some valuable time;
- Build a clear work plan of activities and tasks (WBS), comprising more details as possible;
- Accurately estimate durations of all project tasks, especially tasks lying on the critical path;
- Study delay and redo experience of the past projects similar to yours;
- Assess all associated risks and factors which may prolong each of project tasks;
- Think how these risks can be mitigated and create a special risks management plan;
- Give a reasonable assessment for how much extra time each of project tasks may take;
- Estimate some delay/redo allowance for every task to reserve delay-mitigating buffers;
- Create the project’s schedule with realistic deadline and milestones;
- Explain required timing on tasks to your team members and obtain their commitment;
- Set priorities to emphasize the most important tasks and work requirements;
- Create conditions for productive work-style and environment with minimum of distractions;
- Make sure that all people and resources engaged into the work are ready and mobilized;
- Stay on the top of awareness with accurate progress tracking to resolve any unwanted situations;
- Don’t hurry up and don’t be afraid to make some breaks to study fails and to psych up;
4) A way to complete project on time with a help of VIP Task Manager:
VIP Task Manager is a product that stands for collaboration between managers and employees, so it allows managers to schedule work explained in terms of particular tasks for their employees and check if these tasks are completed on-time. Let’s consider simple step-by-step instruction to manage schedules in this product:
Instruments to be used:
- Task Tree mode;
- Calendar mode (optional);
Task Tree mode actions:
- Create project work breakdown structure by planning layout of task groups;
- Fill each group with appropriate sub-groups and plain sets of sequenced tasks;
- Set timeframes for each task (Start and Finish dates), or Due Dates;
- Use special option to predefine colors to mark out tasks which are close to their deadlines;
- Select time you would like to be warned of upcoming deadlines beforehand;
- Select color to mark out procrastinated tasks;
- Set Priorities on tasks to launch the most important items to the top of the list;
- Plan “Estimated Time” for tasks to explain task timing;
- Assign tasks and groups to appropriate resources;
- Set Reminders to prevent missing deadlines;
Calendar mode actions:
- Switch to appropriate time-scale mode on Calendar;
- Use Date Navigator to define appropriate time scope;
- Check “Group by Resources” to see individual Calendars;
- Observe the project’s tasks durations and check their statuses;
- Control time left before deadlines;
- Prolong or shift tasks durations by drag & drop method;