Thursday, April 21, 2011

Manage Expectations Around Deadlines

When we measure results there are always two variables – how much and by when. This is the ‘by when’ part of Managing Up. If taking the Initiative is the most important aspect of Managing Up, and not making your boss wonder what you are doing is the most basic, this one is the easiest to do.

A deadline is a deadline is a deadline. Whether you are issuing permits, delivering a budget or a performance report, submitting a grant or issuing an rfp, a deadline is set because timeliness is important. The essential truth about goals is that goals and deadlines drive performance and are a great lever to make happen whatever difference for customers is on the agenda.

Look at deadlines as a great opportunity to meet or exceed performance expectations. Because that’s what deadlines are – performance expectations. Remember – how much by when. If you meet or exceed the ‘by when’ part of the equation, you are managing up – managing to the expectations of the organization and presumably your boss.

It’s pretty simple really. If you can meet the deadline, meet it and celebrate that. If for any reason, any reason, you cannot meet the deadline, communicate with your boss as soon as you know this. As hard as it is to do so, especially if the reason for not meeting the deadline may be your own performance, do it anyway. The alternative is much the worst. It’s a matter of honesty – just tell the truth. It always pays to do so – George was right about this. Ask any politician how it works to withhold the truth.

A couple of more points about what not to do-- If you say you are going to deliver a product by a certain date, then do it. It will enhance your credibility as someone the boss can count on – and you do what you say you are going to do. Under promise and over deliver is one of my favorite sayings.

If we promise something or agree to deliver something by a date and it looks like we can’t do that for any reason, then re-negotiate the deadline. This is so simple to do and is a great opportunity to communicate and build a bond of trust. Remember the earlier posting about not making your boss wonder or ask? Re-negotiating deadlines prevents the boss from being in that position.

If you are the boss, you want to know the deadline is not going to be met so you can either bring additional resources to bear, help solve problems to come as close to the deadline as possible, and so you can manage expectations above you about what is happening and what to expect. If people know ahead of time that something is happening or not happening, they can adjust their thinking, expectations and communicate rationally.

Manage Deadlines, Manage Expectations, Manage Up.

Next is ‘Never Reverse Delegate”.

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