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You have always managed to pull it off, but at the expense of some preventable mistakes. Worse, your sense of urgency at the end has caused you to mow over some colleagues. This has resulted in lingering grudges and less willingness to go the extra mile for you as each successive project has had similar problems, and created similar stress-laden behaviors.
A solid set of preventative measures are in the pre-project planning:
- Bring the team together to communicate the scope of the project and its target date, and to identify the steps needed to complete it.
- If a team leader has not already been assigned, choose one person to follow the project all the way through to completion. The team leader is not necessarily doing all of the steps - this job is about making sure the project is on track and on time - and on budget.
- Be sure to assign which steps are to be completed by whom. This prevents later finger pointing from multiple parties waiting (incorrectly) for someone else to finish a step in the project.
- Know whether you're planning backward or forward. Some projects have a set deadline from which you have to plan backward. You determine drop dead dates for each respective step, working from the last step to the first. In cases where there is not a pre-defined due date you add up the component times from all of the steps from a known start date to determine your delivery date.
- Assign target dates for each step. Errors and undue pressure and conflict at the end can be prevented by not allowing the early steps to consume nearly all of the available cycle time.
- Incorporate buffers into the time line. If one team member is only able to allocate 50% of his time to the project, determine the necessary active work time to complete his step and double it on the time line (because you have only half of his attention it will take twice as long). Then consider adding a small additional buffer for contingencies.
- Hold regular team huddles to stay on top of the project status, and to solve any unanticipated problems that arise as promptly as possible.
- Celebrate the completion. In some instances a "thank you" and a ceremonial crossing the project off the list will serve. In particularly challenging, important and/or lengthy projects, a pizza party or other more elaborate (or silly and creative) celebration is called for. Skip this step only if you don't care whether the team members will feel motivated to do this again with you.
- Do a debrief of the project. If you want to learn from this project to make future ones better, sit down with your team and evaluate what went right and what didn't go so well. This is a great way to hone your project process and cycle time estimates if you have to use the info to quote pricing and delivery time lines on future projects.