Interesting word, that. The line after which things die, which is of course hyperbole. Of all the times the word deadline is uttered, it rarely ends up being fatal. Might be out of a job, or lose a house, or some other very negative thing, but most of the time it’s just fake pressure.
That’s not to say that the deadline itself isn’t important. If it wasn’t, or if people we’re serious about it, no one would care. There absolutely has to be some accountability for it, as there is always a cause. Poor planning, poor finances, poor resources, unforeseen issues. Someone, somewhere, has to manage those dates. Then you need to manage expectations from your bosses about moving dates faster, or damage control if they slip. Fun times.
All that to say that the project I’m running now has multiple dependencies outside of my control. Outside of my boss, and his boss’ control. There’s certainly some pressure, with daily updates to the VP, weekly to the president. It’s a fun balancing act of keeping the staff shielded from that, allowing them to do the work they do best, and somehow keep the bosses happy with progress. Or at least explain why there are delays in such a fashion that they a) believe you and b) accept it.
There are days where I feel more like the meat in a sandwich, little to show for the day’s work. There are other days where there are large breakthrough, acceleration on activities that were planned to take much longer. Others where the opposite occurs and a key dependency indicates that they haven’t actually done any of the work yet and don’t know when it will be done. I certainly try to focus on those good days, because people need some sort of hope of the end of a project. I try to find ways to mitigate those dependencies, maybe have some sort of interim solution in place instead, isolating that group.
End result is that long-term relationships get built, destroyed, and re-built over a project. I am not one to throw someone under the bus, and sometimes tough calls have to be made. We each go home at the end of the day, and we’re not exactly curing cancer. The real end goal here is reputation and trust. Saying you’ll do something by a certain date and keeping track of that date. When a date slips and people know about it, people are working to correct it, then that builds some level of trust. The opposite behavior degrades trust and makes conversations much more difficult in the future. No one ever goes it alone, and it’s important to know past behavior will influence future.
Still a few months to go before the major delivery is done. Quite a few good contacts and relationships made over the duration so far. Some… maybe not so good.
By the end of this project, I expect a few news articles at the start of the new year, a lot of personal and professional growth, a team that has achieved more than they originally thought possible, and a big shift in the way our organization works on a daily basis. And then a month-long vacation.
All if we can meet our deadlines.