Don’t Succumb to Deadlines


Many project managers assume that their job is to push team members to finish their tasks on time.  Big mistake.  A project manager doing this is probably not helping the project finish any earlier, while destroying his chances of getting a quality deliverable.  Let me explain.

To start off, most deadlines are ficititious.  “Dead” lines should not move.  We all know how much they actually do on projects.  The reason is that most deadlines are just meaningless ultimatums.  A point in time set by someone and people start honoring that deadline.  Some deadlines I have to admit are not fictitious.  For example, when I worked on the Year 2000 remediation programs (Y2K) these were real deadlines.  It was a point in time that could not be moved.  there are more I admit, but they are rare.

What happens when someone sets a fictitious deadline? Unfortunately, because project managers are trained to watch time through schedules, and do not have as much training in scope, quality, and even cost management, they end up focusing on time and time alone, and at all cost.

I know this is heresy to some traditional project managers, but so what if we miss a deadline, when the quality of the deliverable is of higher importance and priority to the client? I do not think on most projects missing by a few days or a few weeks have as big an impact as losing the customer confidence because the delivery was lousy on the scope or quality side of things.  In most projects where I am a client, I prefer to be given a chance to negotiate the priority of time, cost, scope with the project manager rather than him taking decisions on his own and determining that he must meet the schedule no matter what.

When I am the supplier (seller) I find most clients cooperative when you explain to them why you need the extra time and the value they will get from a little bit more time until delivery.  Actually, many show respect and appreciate the brave move by a project manager to decide that he will not allow delivery to customer if he is not satisfied with the deliverable.  This builds respect and trust, and the opposite happens when we deliver to deadline but miss important aspects of quality delivery.

I welcome comments and feedback on this even if contrary to my veiwpoint.

Comments (6)

  1. I think it depends on the state of the deliverable, as a project manager, if i will submit a deliverable for a client for his review, then meeting deadline is more important than “superior quality” as this deliverable is a “draft” and it is norm to have some mistakes as it will be changed and updated from client side, but if this is final delivery to be used in the operations, then producing a “superior quality” and “error-free” product is a must even if i will miss the deadline.

    my point is that when the deliverable is still in the “build and review” iterations between the PM and the client; then “time” is the vital factor to keep project in track with proper QA of course, but when launching the final product then it’s time of quality as a vital factor to satisfy the client.

    in the middle of the project, PM should keep his eye on time and scope and quality as “quality assurance”, and at the end of the project his attention should move to quality as “quality control” as now time and scope in the safe zone.

    what do you think?

  2. I totally agree…I have seen many sponsors who were willing to forgive a budget overrun and/or a schedule slippage, but I am yet to see any who would settle for a sub-quality deliverable…When it comes to quality, they might ‘understand’, but would not ‘accept’.

  3. I totally AGREE.
    When a project is finished, people will forget about deadlines were missed, but they will have to deal with the poor quality deliverables they got every day! Client may forgive missing deadlines but will not when it comes to qulaity. Also project manager needs to be careful about the client’s first impression when getting a poor quality deliverable.

    Well, the best saying is what prophet Muhammad said, “Surely Allah loves when any of you does an endeavor that he seeks to perfect it.”

    Please Mr. Project Manager allow the team to deliver high quality 🙂

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