While they may well be a leading cause of stress in the workplace, deadlines are something of a necessary evil, as without them — let the anarchists amongst us disagree — human productivity would all but certainly tumble into oblivion.
Yet all too often, strict schedules also give us the impression that the people within our organisations behave much like tireless machines, mechanically churning out their finished products at the mere push of a button.
This, of course, couldn’t be further from reality, and the Agile manifesto makes perfectly clear: companies should prioritise “individuals and interactions over process and tools.”
So with this thought as our guiding compass, here are five simple ways to help your employees meet their deadlines:
1. Explain why the deadline is important
How many times do your workers dawdle even after you have carefully explained that a given task should be treated as urgent? This happens because most people do not respond particularly well to being denied the logic behind uncomfortable changes.
Think about it. It’s like when your mother told you to do something because she “said so.”
For this reason, whenever the stakes are high, it is wise to paint a very clear picture from the outset:
Instead of simply stating that reports are due by the end of the week, try mentioning the fact that your most important client will be coming in on Monday, and you have promised that they would be ready for him.
2. Make sure help is at hand
Regrettably, far too many companies fail to create a cooperative work environment. By treating employees like silos, however, not only do people get bogged down by their workloads, but they are also cut off from those who should be able to assist them in overcoming their difficulties.
On the other hand, in work environments where help is freely available, a lifeline is thrown, potentially sparing workers hours worth of wading through treacle.
3. Focus on the family
Without that lifeline of support, working for any company can quickly start to feel as warm and welcoming as a bucket of ice at five o’clock in the morning.
But by shifting the focus away from the individual to the organisation as a whole, your employees begin to understand that their work will always be connected to someone else’s.
In addition to creating a stronger sense of community, this serves to generate accountability, a crucial ingredient in deadline adherence.
4. Let your team set due dates
Due dates are often set by people who are not directly involved in a project. Unsurprisingly, however, this is a recipe for disaster.
Because every team is formed by unique individuals, in most cases, it pays to allow your employees to work at their own pace.
When people are able to set their own deadlines, they feel more responsible for the success or failure of a project, paying greater attention to the quality of work as opposed to rushing unnecessarily. Of course, once again, communication is vital, so the urgency factor should also be discussed in advance.
5. Take advantage of software tools
Lastly, though it is true that we must always prioritise people over tools, there is certainly a time and place for software as well.
Managing any development team will require exceptional knowledge and planning skills, so whether you opt for canned software or a bespoke solution that will better accommodate your needs, be willing to let machines do what they do best and allow your team to handle the rest :).
By following these simple tips, company leaders are reminded to see the humanity behind each and every company cog, generating in turn the passion that is needed to deliver quality products in a timely fashion.