Faster is Slower – Managing Impossible Deadlines
Here is something for you to think about: Pushing for an outcome right now, when you haven’t considered all the inputs, will lead to either a very messy and costly solution or even one with no outputs or outcome at all!
Most of us are familiar with Aesop’s fables and one in particular regarding the race between the Tortoise and the Hare. In short, during their race, the Hare falls asleep and the Tortoise plods on towards the finish line and crosses it before the hare realises what has happened.
Often, there is immense pressure to do things quickly. When we are at work, it would seem that it’s not enough to be aware of the looming and unrelenting deadlines. There also seems to be someone constantly reminding us of the need to drag ourselves kicking and screaming to meet these tight deadlines, as well.
So it all comes down to this. When we are hit with that almost impossible deadline, we need to decide one of two things:
- Meeting that target or deadline at all costs that includes stress, no hair and people not wanting to engage with us any more; or
- Phasing the target or deadline and living with the outcome of enjoying peace of mind.
When the pressure is on, it is not uncommon for us to become inefficient and ineffective. We start earlier, we finish later and we even watch our weekends disappear in order to meet that illusive target. We become tired, irratible and almost impossible to deal with. We become frazzled and even burn out.
The further problem with meeting a deadline at all costs is that there is no redundancy built into the solution or outcome. By this I mean , if a mistake occurs during production (even writing or perhaps construction), there is no time to correct the fault. The end product, in whatever form it takes, often with costly repurcussions, is released.
Of course there are a number of exceptions to this situation including the release of software that allows beta testing or patches as we go or new versions that are subsequently released. This in itself can be quite frustrating for the user (but seems to be accepted practice now). There is also the approach regarding the use of actuaries – analytical wizards who calculate the cost or risk of an uncertain event. Many businesses insure themselves against such risks. An example is when a car is recalled to replace a faulty component. This also introduces a personal risk and is frustrating because of what may have been casued by someone else’s error. You will either decide to have the faulty part replaced or not, and live with whatever the outcome may be.
With phasing the target, this means putting forward the outcome in more digestble or acceptable stages. This is also where the art of negotiation comes into the picture.
Often, the boss or the client is not sure regarding the key deliverables themselves. They know there is a target or end goal. However, the execution of achieving that outcome is very much up in the air.
In a competitive world, this is where the magic of the staged approach is valuable. Stage one might look something like delivering an outcome in a more basic form to meet the timeframe required. This will satisfy most requirements, both for the client and the user. As a result, we have then given ourselves time to build the more expansive outcomes in later stages (ideally we can set some further milestones or key timeframes at this point).
I am reminded of that saying “simple is best,” or get back to basics. Stage one allows us to get ahead of the game. We enter the market with no other competitors in sight (they are in effect asleep). Stage two builds on our strong position by adding more sophistication or aditional features. At this point our competition has woken up to what we are up to, but it is too late. Even if they flood the market with similar services or gadets, as long as we continue to innovate, we will then stay ahead of the game.
Always remember to manage the expectations of others!
I have a client who was under immense pressure last year regarding a commitment it gave to its customers to involve them in the development of a customer engagement policy. However, due to one thing or another, the promise of such a policy did not eventuate. Now, this client does take its promises to their customers very seriously.
When asked for my input into this matter, I suggested that an interim engagement policy is developed by the client with a promise that the original commitment for customer involvement in the final version of the policy is undertaken in 6 to 12 months time.
The end result was my client was happy with my proposal and also asked me to develop the interim policy. Not only that, the customers were also happy with the amended approach to their involvement in the development of the final version of the engagement policy in due course. So we all got to take a deep breath and relax going forward!
So Slower is Faster 😊