This time it will be different.
You’ve set your major milestones, allocated tasks efficiently across your team and made tweaks to address any hiccups you experienced during prior projects. It should be smooth sailing from here.
Yet time and time again, bottlenecks and unexpected circumstances cause your team to miss deadlines. It’s a common problem for large teams. So much so, that a study done by PMI found that only 49% of organizations across the United States complete their major projects on time.
There are plenty of project management templates available to help you get started with any given project. With this post, however, we wanted to share some out-of-the-box tips, specifically to address working with your team.
Here are 4 of our top tips to help your team meet deadlines:
Set expectations for communication
While there’s no doubt that it’s important to communicate with your team, it’s equally as important to ensure you set clear expectations for how and when you communicate. This can include who to contact, what tools to use and the various milestones to notify on.
For example, if you use a project management system, you can set the expectation that when someone receives the final edits of campaign photographs, they attach them to a new task and assign it to the appropriate designer.
The impact of this is two-fold:
First, it prevents your employees from disrupting each other’s’ workflows. While sometimes talking in person is easier, it can often be more disruptive than other forms of communication. A study performed by the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that as little as one minute of interruption can wipe your short-term memory, halting your entire work process. When communication is left to each person’s discretion it can cause over-communication, with teammates disrupting each other’s creative flow.
Secondly, it ensures that everyone remains accountable to each other. 29% of US workers stated that accountability was their team’s largest obstacle to achieving success. When communication expectations are set, it reduces the possibility of a “he said, she said” about who’s to blame if the project goes sideways – everyone is on the same page about where, when and how they can expect to be notified.
Add a buffer for deadlines
Only 37% of teams complete projects on time, more often than not. This is because, despite vigorous planning, small hiccups add up and cause projects to quickly fall behind. When planning out the various milestones and deadlines for a team project, it’s ideal to leave a buffer of 1 or 2 days for smaller milestones and a week for any major deadlines.
A great trick from Cal Newport is to span the deadline for the entire week in your calendar. Adding a visual cue that your deadline is coming up can prevent your team from attending unnecessary meetings and give them the opportunity to re-schedule lower priority projects. Simply put, it adds visibility to any potential conflicts that could impact meeting that week’s deadline.
Plan for when your team is most efficient
Meetings, while sometimes necessary, can often be the downfall of hitting project deadlines. Office workers are now spending between 5 and 11 hours per week in meetings, 46% more often than the year before.
But, while you can do your best to avoid unnecessary meetings, sometimes they’re inevitable. In these cases, try to schedule meetings when your team is the least productive.. Most people know when they’re most productive and when their creativity begins to fade. Examples of this are the “Night Owl” and the “Early Riser”, where someone feels more productive in the morning or at night. Take the time to analyze how each of your team members work, and do your best to find meeting times that cause minimal disruptions, allowing the team to be the most efficient.
Ensure continuity of projects
When your team is interconnected, it’s easier to stay productive. In fact, a study by the McKinsey Global Institute found that it can improve productivity by 20-25%. To ensure continuity of your projects, have systems and processes in place to keep all work-in-progress projects available in a central location, rather than stored on someone’s local drive. This ensures that if unexpected circumstances arise, like an unexpected illness or trip, the project can easily be picked up by another team member.
If you’re using a project management solution, finding a central digital asset library (like a DAM or other file storage solution) that connects with it can help streamline continuity. It gives you the ability to quickly publish and pull digital files while staying in your workflow.
Hitting project deadlines can be a challenge, especially when there’s a large team involved. With interdependent tasks and limited time, it takes vigorous planning and fool-proof processes to stay on target.
While these 4 tips may not be the holy grail to nailing your deadlines, we hope they can take you one step further towards improving your existing processes. If you’re looking for some more quick tips, see how these 9 marketing leaders are collaborating with their global teams.