Project Deadlines Are Targets Not Absolutes

The practice of senior management selecting a deadline and telling the project team to meet it lives on. It’s frustrating for all of us but there are many good reasons for this approach. Big companies have many facets to their businesses and coordinating all the activities toward a common end date is as tough as it gets.

Fighting this well-established technique is a losing battle. Instead, accept the date, determine its true meaning and value, then do your best to make it happen. Start by asking a few questions:

  • What is the significance of the end date?
  • Are other projects being coordinated with yours?
  • Is there flexibility in the budget to reduce the risk of missing the date?
  • Is there flexibility in the feature set so that the most important features hit the target date?

Regardless of the answers, you’ll be on the hook to give it your best shot. The most important point is to be open and honest about project status. Continuously evaluate risks, costs and remaining effort.

Keep asking questions and keep probing the target date. Things can change rapidly even in the biggest and slowest moving companies.

There is a good two-part article at that is well-worth a look. The first part covers four important points about deadlines and the second part adds three more.

Updated: December 31, 2010 — 5:19 pm