Deadlines are the clenching teeth of the cogwheels of civilization. You probably have some experience with meeting deadlines. Nowadays, however, it’s all about teams meeting and beating deadlines.
Truly remarkable achievements are most often team results. Gone are the days of patent-office clerks submitting world-changing papers on theoretical physics. And even Einstein needed help from expert mathematicians. Ironically, perfecting teamwork is a challenge in its own right. This is why we’ll be covering several important topics on the matter. This is our “perfecting teamwork” series.
One thing that scares everybody, from managers to interns, is deadlines. Seriously, even the word is composed from “dead” and “lines”, it’s clearly not a concept to be taken lightly. In fact, a growing body of research suggests how horrible deadlines can get.
Here’s what deadlines are and how to best manage them as a team.
Recognize the function of deadlines
Deadlines are there so that everything syncs. You need different bits to match up, to fit and synergize. That’s what deadlines are for, they’re the “teeth” in the cogwheel.
If each collaborator is a cogwheel, deadlines are what makes the cogwheel sync. Syncing means you don’t get stuck and there’s energy transfer from a generator to a final objective. Or that everything runs like clockwork.
Deadlines ensure people have inputs which congregate in a certain way. One that creates a work flow with a superior value. They are the heartbeats of your teamwork. So why call them deadlines? Maybe we should call them life-lines instead.
No matter how you call them, they are a challenging thing to master, especially when working with a team. It’s a work in itself, making sure that everything falls in place at the right time. Here are some ideas on how to do it best.
Trust your team to fix deadlines – the driving force of meeting deadlines
This is elementary psychology at work. Ask people to estimate their performance. Moreover, ask them to consider their requirements to achieve something. This makes it a lot easier to keep the deadline. And potentially a lot more pleasant to also do their part (think engagement as a motivator).
That’s not all that happens, though. Modern teams have specialized roles. This means you’re likely going to have experts working together. Experts that actually know when something will be 100% ready or 80% ready.
The number one way to make sure the deadlines are functional is to trust your team. And there are many good reasons for doing so. Firstly, you met each of them during recruiting. Secondly, each time you recruited, you selected the best team fit. Thirdly, these people are specialists, experts, knowledge workers. So how about you trust their input? To begin with, trust that they can meet deadlines. And trust their estimation on how long it takes to get there.
Clearly, sometimes you have to get something done by a certain date. That’s how business works. Sometimes you have deadlines that are external. External deadlines are outside your control. It takes a whole team to work towards external deadlines. And often you can’t meet them 100%. Hence, nurture team trust as a strategy. When dealing with exterior pressure, your team can respond as an organism.
Overall, the number one rule of setting deadlines is to check with your team. When the team contributes to deadline setting, you know where you stand. Just picture it as a large whiteboard on which team members post their progress. Firstly, everyone can know where they stand. Secondly, it makes them aware of each other and their significance to the team effort. That’s gamification at work. What about meeting deadlines?
Strategize your deadline-meeting efforts
Meeting deadlines have everything to do with strategizing your efforts as a team. Here are some common yet highly effective methods to meet deadlines:
1. “Lie to me” – The early deadline strategy
Have your team think everything needs to be ready by this Friday. In fact it all needs to be ready by next Friday. This is a tricky strategy.
Why? It does little for team trust. On the other hand, it can be a failsafe. You get to have everything you need a week ahead. This is not a dilemma. You should not lie to your team. However, you can call it an “early deadline”. Early deadlines are to be respected as actual deadlines. It allows you to refine everything. This can save entire projects. Moreover, you won’t need to worry about last-minute emergencies. Especially when the” last minute emergency” is 2-7 days before the actual deadlines.
However, there are rules to early deadlines. Firstly, set “early deadlines” in days for projects measurable in weeks. Moreover, use weeks for projects with lengths or milestones measurable in months.
2. Breaking it down
This is, perhaps, a no-brainer. After all, teamwork involves each person doing a bit of a larger project. Hence, dismantle the larger project into manageable chunks. That’s a great way to ensure intermediary deadlines are met.
This creates more deadlines to stress about, true. However, by definition, intermediary deadlines are also early deadlines. And we already have a clever way to use early deadlines.
Managing deadlines is a great deal of work. In addition, you need to manage team progress in reaching deadlines. Break apart large projects into chunks. A great way to work this through is to facilitate ad-hoc collaborative panels.
3. Ad-hoc collaborative panels
This is counter-intuitive. After all, when people meet-up and chat about work sounds like time wasting. And clearly not the way to meet deadlines, right? Wrong.
People randomly chatting each other up about work. That’s what it looks like. In fact, they create a synching context. One in which they can better understand how their various “bits of work” will fit together. Moreover, it’s also an amazing opportunity for individuals to ask for help. And that’s precisely what you want.
Two brains are better than one. Teams are better than individuals. Besides, it’s all active participation. Which means a lot more thinking goes on during such meetings than during large team meetings.
You can control the occurrence of such panels either directly. Merely establish that every day teams should have free-meetings. They should get to chat about what it is they do. Alternatively, you can create opportunities for such meetings. Extend water cooler gossip with some office snacks. Besides it will make everyone happier at work.
4. Using “modern means”
Possibly the most amazing thing about technology is that it can simplify your life.
Imagine how incredible it is that nowadays you can do all of the above. And, moreover, you can effectively augment your capabilities with smart tech.
Imagine a solution that offers features which allow you to set up, manage, and track deadlines.
To share files and responsibilities or check the progress on various bits. Best of all, to chat with team members while never being interrupted at work.
One in which you can do actual collaborative team work and team communications. Essentially everything a team needs to get work done and meet deadlines.
You don’t need to reach too far in your imagination. Such solutions already exist.