We all know it is a good habit to establish a date for all tasks.  Items with no date risk to have exactly that result: no date when it will be completed.  So we develop a workplan, which identifies what needs to be done, who will do it, the work effort and the start and end date.  Then I often see the same problem over and over.  Team members view dates as the rule to follow.  A task is only started on the expected date, and everything is done to finish it at the due date.  By everything, I mean everything, including procrastination, extending work, inefficiency, excessive team meetings… Everything!

This view of the timeline of a workplan can only results in the following options:

  • Task completed exactly on time
  • Task completed late

Because the due date is viewed and the only acceptable results, nobody tries to completed the task earlier.  Then, there’s only as project risk the negative impact of being late.  The positive risk of completing something earlier is completely removed from the equation.

I repeat often to team members, or other project managers, that every date should be read as “no later than”, and as much as possible try to complete it earlier, even much earlier if possible.  Time is one thing that we don’t control, it is the same for everybody and only moves in one direction: forward.  So procrastination is very costly, because you cannot undo the impact of the passage of time.

It is true that advance project management application can manage various relationships between task and various type of tasks.  With such tool, it is possible to be extremely precise with the type of tasks, and their relationships.

  • Must start on
  • No later than
  • As soon as possible
  • As late as possible
  • etc.

However, let’s be honest here.  Often we just try to be efficient in developing the workplan, and all tasks appear as if they do actually start on a specific date and end on another specific date.  And it is true to the cost benefit of working hard at identifying the proper type and relationship may not be there.  So we use the right project management approach and build a workplan with the appropriate level of precision.

And then team member, of even ourselves, fall in the trap of “must start or end on this date”.  And there’s no possibility to have a positive surprise, complete a task earlier, and gain a buffer.  This buffer can also be very precious in later phases of the project to manage and often other risks and would negatively impact the timeline.

The same logic here also applies when you must submit dates to clients, or at the corporate level for portfolio management.  It is dangerous to later consider these dates as the target date… Unless of course a date must be precise for a specific reason, such as a public launch of a product, a concert, a conference, etc.  If you have a chance to complete a deliverable before the due date to a client, or the date specified in the corporate report, it will usually be to the benefit of you and your team.

This would lead to my next frequent issue with workplan.  You need to be honest, admit that nobody, can plan with pure precision a project. After you do that, you need to stop fighting for the impossible quest of perfection, and build a buffer and risk management in your workplan.  Then you are a more normal results: some are normal and as plan, some are late, and some are earlier.  Hopefully, all in all, with this risk management, you can successfully deliver the project.

On a final note, here’s an interesting article on the issue of timeline and not waiting for the last minutes to complete everything.

Source : Projectmanager.com

5 Reasons People Put Things Off Until the Last Minute

February 6, 2013

Have you wondered why everything has to be such a fire drill? Much of it has to do with the sense of urgency (or lack thereof) of your colleagues that are working on the same project. Below are some reasons why people put things off to the last minute and ways you can keep your project at the top of their list.

Read full article