This blog post is all managing your stakeholders and setting expectations. Often deadlines aren't met, right? We do our best obviously, and our teams do our best, but sometimes we just don't make it. When you're reporting into especially more senior leaders or senior stakeholders, it's common to feel really nervous about telling them that something's not going to make a deadline.
I'm here to tell you though, that the biggest mistake you can make is not communicating this to them as early as possible. If you hear people talk about managing stakeholder expectations, this is exactly what we're talking about! Now, I had an example a couple of weeks ago with exactly this scenario. A project wasn't delivered on time and the leader was really kind of nonchalant about it, especially around the fact that they should have maintained their stakeholders expectations a bit earlier in the piece.
The thing they basically said was, "Well, what difference would it make if I told them a week ago that we probably weren't going to hit the deadline versus actually not hitting the deadline and then telling them then?" Now, think about this for yourself for a second. We adjust to what people are telling us. This is our expectations, right? So, whether we have positive or negative expectations, you might not like it at the start, but you actually then kind of get used to it, right? You then reset your expectations.
Unexpected stuff always happens, right? But take my advice on this. Deadlines are really important and you absolutely should take those seriously. Some are more important than others, right? Of course. You and your team really should try and meet that deadline, best endeavours. But – as soon as you as a leader or a project manager get an inkling that maybe that deadline is not going to be hit, maybe the scope is blown out, maybe there's more difficulties than you expected – you have a responsibility to call it out.
As soon as you get that inkling, I want you to talk to anyone who has a vested interest in this project. They are your stakeholders. Now, they might be other team members, they might be your peer group, they might be your senior leaders. Whoever it is, it's far better to tell them as soon as possible that, perhaps you might not quite hit the deadline because these things are happening, and then keep communicating.
Now, often when you actually do this, the response will be, "Okay, what can we do to actually make sure we hit the deadline? Can we take something out of the scope? Can we simplify something? Do you need more resources?" Or it might be, "Yeah, okay. Not ideal, but another day is really not going to matter." So, this is what I want you to think about when you're running any project or anything that actually has a deadline and you have other people who are expecting delivery on, say, a Friday. As soon as you think it's not going to happen, start communicating!
The difference is that if you wait until the day when they're still expecting and no one's told them otherwise, that's when they're going to be really pissed off. So, I hope that helps. Keep that in the back of your mind, face into the conversation. Trust me, the earlier you have this chat, the better it will be.