I’m sure you know how devastating missed deadlines can be to your agency’s reputation.
Your clients are dissatisfied.
You get hardly any testimonials.
And you find it harder and harder to win new work.
But even still, 72 percent of B2B marketers report regularly missing their deadlines.
Pretty crazy, right?
Luckily for you, in this post, I’ll show you how to overcome this problem.
You’ll learn 4 ways to start improving your project management strategy so that you can stop missing deadlines.
Intrigued? Then let’s not waste any more time.
The First Step: Uncover the Problem Behind Missed Deadlines
I’m sure you know this – uncovering the root problem (or problems) behind missed deadlines is the fastest way to arrive at a solution.
That’s why before you start implementing any of the strategies in this post, take the time to find the cause behind your deadline issue.
To get you started, here are four of the most common problems that cause teams to fall behind:
You Underestimate How Long a Project Will Take
Fact: it’s hard to predict everything about a project.
And that’s particularly true when you’re only working out the timeline and delivery.
Do I have all the resources I need to complete the project?
Are the instructions from the client clear enough that my team can run with it?
Do unforeseen circumstances exist that might prevent me from completing the project on time?
These are all difficult questions to answer when kicking off something new and yet, that’s the time that most businesses set deadlines and make commitments to their clients.
And that’s a big problem for many teams. So much so, project managers have a name for it: the “Cone of Uncertainty.”
“This diagram clearly identifies that the largest amount of unknown factors exist at the start of the project and only as time progresses can you begin to understand what would be considered a reasonable estimate…With this graph in mind, it’s obvious that any estimations made in the beginning of a project are not ‘promises to be written in blood.’”
There’s Poor Communication During Project Hand-Off
I’m sure many of your projects require several different teams to collaborate.
But here’s the problem – often, teams don’t speak to each other or accurately record relevant notes and project details.
And as I’m sure you know, poor communication leads to project bottlenecks as teams ask for revisions or further clarification.
Teams Create Data Silos When They Use Different Tools
Here’s another issue tied to poor communication:
Even if your teams do a great job of communicating, there’s a problem with access to relevant data when different teams use different platforms.
This can be particularly true for marketers, who often find themselves in single-function positions at an agency (like PPC, email, SEO, etc.) with access only to role-specific software.
For example: if you’re working in social media marketing, you may not have access to automation software, though there’s likely relevant data there for you to use.
You Don’t Properly Monitor Project Milestones
Setting only a single deadline for project completion is like turning on cruise control and expecting your car to just drop you at your location.
Chances are it isn’t going to work out.
Instead, focus on monitoring the completion of major milestones along the way.
That way, a missed deadline won’t come out of nowhere and have a severe impact on your brand reputation.
Once you’ve uncovered the cause of your missed deadlines, what can you do to overcome those challenges?
Try These 4 Quick Fixes for Better Project Management (and Less Missed Deadlines)
#1. Break Deadlines Down into Lots of Smaller Due Dates
By creating smaller milestones at the start of a project, you accomplish two things:
- You assess whether the larger due date is actually achievable.
It’s much easier to see how a project will progress when broken down into smaller pieces. And so setting milestones let’s you know if you’re being realistic about the bigger due dates.
- You improve your ability to hold people accountable.
A larger missed deadline can quickly fall into bickering and placing blame from the team. Individual deadlines have clear accountability, which means you can see exactly where road bumps exist. And then you can fix the situation before things get out of hand.
A good project management platform – like Zapty– will allow you to create subtasks within your larger projects.
That way, you can easily track progress toward the main deadline and hold your people accountable for their tasks.
#2. Set Deadlines a Few Days Before You Actually Need the Project Completed (But Don’t Tell the Team About It)
You might think it’s a good idea to give your team the maximum amount of time to complete a project.
(After all, if they have more time, that might mean less missed deadlines, right?)
But the truth is, people work better under pressure.
There’s a theory called Parkinson’s Law that states “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
So, if you give more time, your team will take the time (even if they don’t really need it).
And that’s exactly why you should set your deadlines before you really need delivery. You’ll be building in a buffer for your deadlines that can help you avoid missing them in the future.
#3. Host Weekly Team Meetings to Get the Project Status from Each Team
Part of consistently meeting deadlines is your ability to keep a bird’s eye view on the project.
That’s because project managers like you hold the reigns for making big decisions.
And that’s precisely why you should get the teams together once a week and ask for status updates, ideas for improvement and any forecasted issues from each team.
That way, you have all the information you need to keep projects moving and make adjustments as needed.
#4. Improve Cross-Functional Communication with a Team Chat Tool
Consolidating your team communication with a chat tool means better collaboration and easier monitoring for project managers.
If you can incorporate the chat directly into your project management platform, that’s even better.
That way, you house everything associated with the project – including relevant documents, images and tasks – in one location for the whole team to access.
And that means a few dramatic improvements to your team’s project communication, including:
- Better organization
- Accurate, detailed records of interactions for the whole team to review
- Accessibility across all devices
“Team collaboration apps structure our communication in a much more efficient way [than email], focusing specifically on the content and not just the message…Instead of blasting one email to 10 people with an update on your latest project, collaboration apps let you start a room or conversation with the necessary and relevant 10 people, label it “Q2 Memo,” drop the file right in, and watch as your co-workers begin not just a conversation but a process of collaboration.”
Here’s what that looks like on Zapty:
Missing deadlines can ruin your agency’s reputation, but once you’ve identified the problem and start implementing these solutions, you’ll be well on your way to dramatically reducing your missed deadlines.