I've noticed many times that projectmanagers find themselves the keepers of the deadline. Everything has to go to reach the golden target, the deadline.
And mind you, there is nothing wrong with trying to get things done before the deadline. What is wrong however, is the ownership of the deadline.
To me, the projectmanager does not have a deadline. The projectmanager will do its best to achieve the work in time, but the real owner is the customer.
And that is a huge difference! Why? Keep on reading…
The reason for a deadline
There are usually a few reasons for having deadlines:
- Money / profit
The customer usually will suffer if the deadline is not met. But, it is also up to the customer to move the deadline! Therefore, in my opinion, the customer is the owner of the deadline.
Projectmanager and deadline
How come many projectmanagers feel they own the deadline? I mean, if the solution is not in production at a certain moment in time, it will not influence the projectmanager directly (of course, corrective measures from the business will have their influence, but that is a business penalty, and has nothing to do with the solution).
Somehow projectmanagers step into the shoes of the customer when it comes to deadlines. I think it is mostly because the customer does not show any interest in the IT solution, and puts a lot of pressure on the projectmanager. Sometimes fear for the customer, or the penalty plays a role as well.
What to do?
First, the projectmanager must involve the customer, and make the following clear:
1) The customer is the owner of the deadline
By having the customer as the owner of the deadline, it is up to the customer to decide what to do and leave, help prioritize, and spend additional money if required, or even move the deadline a bit. After all, if the solution is not delivered in time, or with the wrong requirements, or quality level, it is the customer that will suffer the most.
2) The projectmanager will do its best to achieve the deadline
(hey, this is really being service minded! -> try to help, but stay realistic)
If the projectmanager takes on the role of a service-provider, he will assist the customer in making the important decisions. The projectmanager will make clear what is possible within the current time / budget / resource, and what is required. But the decision stays with the customer. If you have too much work and too little resources / time / budget, make it visible to the customer, and have the customer decide. That is service delivery!
Once all this is clear, make an appointment to speak the customer at least once every two weeks. Discuss the progress of the team, the problems, and the issues and risks. Prioritize together with the customer. Make the customer feel important for the project. Really give them the role of the owner of the deadline.
What if the customer does not want to be the owner?
You do not really want this. It means that the customer is not involved, which to me means that the deadline is fake. If it is really important, the customer would love to be involved. But anyway, if this is the case, make sure that all your decisions are communicated towards the customer. Play it open, and tell the customer what requirements you will skip, and how you will prioritize your work and prioritize the requirements. Keep mentioning that if you do not hear anything, you will assume that your decision has been agreed upon (remember, this is business, with a deadline, you are in a rush, and there is no time to wait). Eventually, the customer probably will become involved, without even knowing it. Especially if you take some foolish decisions!
As a projectmanager, do not act like you are the owner of the deadline. The customer owns the deadline, you will only do your best to achieve it. Some things are impossible, and it is your task to show that to the customer (e.g. you cannot give birth to a baby with 9 women in just one month).