Strict deadlines are part of what makes the world turn in Canada’s competitive business environment. No matter what industry your company is in, getting projects done, or getting products to market, on time is usually not negotiable. The importance the modern world puts on timeliness makes missing a deadline very serious business. In a truly modern supply or manufacturing chain, a single missed deadline anywhere up the line has the potential to bring the rest of the project to a dead stop while the issues are addressed. If you have a team, or teams, missing deadlines as a matter of habit, you need a fix, fast. Before you tackle the problem, pause to ask yourself these questions about where the issue lies and what you can do to address it.
Is What You’re Asking Doable?
Sometimes, a team is given impossible deadlines through simple oversight. This can happen, for example, when you’re breaking in a new team on an old process. If the old bookkeeping crew always got your taxes filed in 10 days, for instance, switching to a fully automated system, or bringing the work in-house from the accounting firm you used to use, could introduce variables that change the timing a bit. Expecting the new process to operate in the same time frame you’re used to is setting yourself up for disappointment.
Are Your Teams Properly Structured?
If you’re sure you have a reasonable time frame to get things done but your team is still falling short, the problem might be in the composition of the team itself. Imagine you run a hedge fund that specializes in government bonds. If you have a team that’s expected to draft quarterly reports on how the portfolio is doing but there’s only one actual financial analyst on the team, with a bunch of junior staff and maybe a lobbyist (who might be really good with government affairs but hopeless with numbers), you can easily fall behind. This is extra problematic, since the people you’re expecting to succeed are aware that they’re falling short, which induces stress and may start a bad spiral of poor performance.
Do Your People Have the Support They Need From Management?
Carpenters can’t just build houses; they need other people to design and do the engineering for them first. Likewise, your teams can’t be expected to show up on Monday morning, know what they’re doing right away, and succeed on their first try. To put the issue of leadership in perspective, imagine you need a team of mechanics in your auto shop to work through five fleet vehicles for the city before they take on the oil changes for other customers. Now imagine they have to work in the dark because your management forgot to pay the electric bill this month. How much work do you expect them to get done? Your job as a manager is to spot obstacles before they hobble your teams and make sure your people have what they need to overcome them.
Is Your Approach to Supervision Appropriate?
Assuming your people are qualified and motivated, and that you paid the light bill and otherwise put things together for them to work, are you sure everybody is pulling the way they should? Without proper supervision, even the best rowing team loses a race or two, and your employees are no different. Apart from that, some teams are unequally yoked. If you’ve eliminated other explanations, try meeting team members individually and letting them tell you whether one person is slowing things down for them. At the very least, you might have to reassign or retrain a lagging employee.
Deadlines are a big deal in modern business. If your teams are consistently falling short, it might be time for you to troubleshoot the issue from the most basic level to the highest.