What’s great about deadlines is that they set a clear window in which things must be worked on and completed. There’s little to no room to pile an interesting new distraction. It can help keep you focused.
But how you arrive at that timeline is important and should not solely be based on how much work is involved.
Here are some ideas for helping ensure development projects are delivered on time.
Define the problem(s) collaboratively / Have a shared vision from the start
If all team members are not involved with understanding and solving the problem from the start, there will confusion throughout the product development process. This confusion will lead to downtime and lack of motivation. People need to feel ownership of their duties and respect for their place on the team.
Agree on the scope and only be open to removing from it
Predictability is paramount to productivity. When people know what needs to be done and they have the room to get things done, wonderful things happen. Having a scope that cannot be added to means expectations are understood, which gives each team member the confidence they need to move forward.
The people doing the work should be the ones setting their respective timelines
It may be tempting to hand off a deadline. Problem is, people will optimize for the forcing function of time rather than the solution or customers’ needs; they’ll look for shortcuts to ensure it’s met, whether intentionally or not. Of course, judging the amount of work involved is difficult. It’s easy to miss things, especially with software where it’s hard to know what it’s going to take until the work actually begins. However, by going over the areas of work methodically, over time people will get good at estimating the rate at which they get things done.
Adjust for the unpredictable, ideally upfront
There are so many outside forces that can affect the timeline. Bugs popup. People quit. How you handle things when this happens is important. Maybe this means preemptively doubling the timeline estimate upfront. Maybe it’s cutting the scope. Get good at accepting, and handling, the unpredictable. Choose to miss the deadline over releasing a crappy product.
If you want to meet a deadline then you’re going to have to leave people alone to do their work. We all know the costs task switching has on productivity. If a deadline is the most important metric, then don’t interrupt work from happening.