The Real Reason Your Project Isn’t On Time …Again

We all do it. We all tell white lies from time to time. Whether it’s about someone’s new hairstyle, or why you were five minutes late to that really important meeting, if we take a look at ourselves we will find that we often stretch the truth.

The question is, why? The most simple and straight reason is that we want to feel like we are doing a good job at making others around us happy.

Often this social practice is harmless. Maybe you really didn’t like your colleague’s new hairdo all that much, but saying it looks great — well, no harm done.

What I have come to notice over the years, however, is that this seemingly harmless practice gets us into a lot of trouble around project management.

You’re in a kick-off meeting. Stakeholders start throwing out dates. You know (because you have been doing this for a while now) that the dates are not likely doable or reasonable. This is the moment, though. In this moment it is up to you to stay conscious, and not go to making people happy, because in the end, no one will be happy that the project isn’t happening the way they imagined and, unfortunately, now…expect.

The motto I always follow in my digital management style is: under-promise; over-deliver.

Quick Dos and Don’ts:

1) Don’t agree to a final timeline in any way until you know it is accurate to real-world UX-, design- and development timelines.

2) Do be clear that in the Discovery stage we are all talking estimates. Estimates, estimates, estimates.

3) Do provide liberal estimates. Giving the stakeholders estimates that err toward longer timelines means, best case: you can shave down your timeline when all the requirements are in, and worst case: your timeline estimate is accurate to the requirements. You look good, and expectations are properly managed from the outset.

How do we boil this all down? What is the one-liner to walk away with?

Tell the truth.

Be upfront with your knowledge. Be forthright, and guide people through the process accurately. You will find your colleagues will always want you leading their next project because they know you know your stuff, and they know you will deliver…on time.

We all want to make people happy, and if you stick to the truth in that little moment when you want to give in, you will find in the end that is exactly what you will have when the project is launching: a boardroom of happy people.

Originally Published on August 12, 2014 on LinkedIn