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Teaching Your Team to Deal with Deadlines

Teaching a team to deal with project deadlines is actually a lot like teaching a college student to buy the bargain bag of cereal at the grocery store. There are limitations (cost and time), inefficient habits that need to be corrected, and sacrifices that need to be made. In an article for Project Smart, Kenneth Darter outlines four ways to help your team manage time. In due course, you may indirectly improve their shopping habits.

Your Project Team’s Grocery List

  1. Communicate Limitations
  2. Prioritize along the Critical Path
  3. Recognize Lead and Lag Times
  4. Mask out Distractions

The team needs to communicate frequently about deadlines in the way a college student may need reminders about their limited expenses before they go shopping. Whether it’s a parent footing the bill or a tuition refund that barely covers the necessities, both payer and payee need to be on the same page about what the acceptable limits are. A project team is no less likely to get caught up in the moment without facing practical concerns like timing.

Of course, not all deadlines are created equal, which is why the PM needs to set priorities for what needs to happen first, second, third, and so on. In our grocery store analogy, we might advise the college student to spend their money on fruits, vegetables, and hot meals before reaching for snacks or candy. In project management, these high priorities are called the critical path.

Lead and lag times add some nuance to the project dynamic. It is wise to include them in the project schedule to ensure that some things come before others, and that the proper gaps prevent unwanted overlaps. This helps team members stay tuned into the big picture. In a similar sense, you wouldn’t buy a huge container of milk before finishing the one that’s already sitting in the fridge at home.

Grocery stores are distracting places by design. Flashy labels and product placements lure us into making unwise (expensive) purchases and skew our concept of what is necessary. During a project, our portable and mobile, non-stop, texting, emailing, multitasking world poses the same challenge. Unplug your team from distractions and give them the focus they need to meet deadlines.

The original article may be viewed at:

About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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