The project due date trap occurs when the boss will only talk about the project’s due date. They want a commitment to that date without defining what they want the project to deliver.
This project due date trap is deadly for a project manager. What draws you into this trap is fear of the boss’ anger. You are certain that your career will be over if you don’t commit to their due date. So you don’t even ask some reasonable questions. Project Planning Main Page
Experienced project managers have learned how to deal with the executives who set the project due date trap. They have learned that a project manager won’t be fired for refusing to commit to a due date. But a project manager could be fired for failing to hit a due date or budget they have committed to meet The first step is getting the sponsor to clearly define the project scope. The scope includes the major deliverables the project must produce and their acceptance criteria. Without that information, the project manager cannot estimate a realistic due date and commit to it. So the project is doomed.
Project Due Date Don’ts
The wrong way to do project planning is to start by identifying the first task you’re going to do on the project, then the second, then the third and so on. This “to do” list approach is easy because it doesn’t require much thinking. But it has major downfalls. Project managers who use this approach tend to include a lot of good, but unnecessary, requirements. They don’t limit the plan to include only what they must do to deliver the result the boss wants. So they waste lots of time and resources. And since they don’t know exactly what the boss wants, they can’t decide what to do to deliver it. They end up adding things to the project later on that they suddenly discover are vital. This “to do” list approach to project planning gets off to a fast start but ends up with projects that take longer and cost more than they should.
Project Best Practices
Long-term success requires that you learn project management best practices. Those are the skills you need to deliver the project scope on time and within budget. For small projects, a five-step methodology is enough. Here are the steps:
- Project planning – focus on a clear scope and a deliverable-oriented project plan. Create the work breakdown structure by working from the scope statement down to individual team member assignments. Clearly define the deliverables that are required to reach the project’s end result.
- Assigning work to the project team – focus on giving them a crystal-clear understanding of what you expect them to produce before they start work. The deliverables must be measurable.
- Estimating – focus on how much work it will take to produce each deliverable. It’s always best to have the team member who is going to do the work take part in this estimating process.
- Tracking progress against the plan and spotting variances – use project management software and status data from your team members to stay on top of your project. Anticipate problems when they are small and before they impact the entire project.
- Designing corrective action and reporting status – design corrective action when you find problems. Clearly report problems and solution options to the project sponsor for their approval.
Learning a simple methodology like this will help you be successful on the vast majority of projects most organizations do.