A critical piece of information when setting goals at the beginning of a project is understanding the expectation of timeline. I hear more times than not a delivery date of “yesterday” or “as soon as possible” with the obligatory chuckle that comes with asking for something unreasonable. As a project manager, it is my job to strategically uncover the motives behind the unreasonable expectation while also ensuring we meet the other predictable goals around quality and budget as well as mitigating unknown, yet inevitable, obstacles that will challenge our success.
I never get frustrated with these answers because they are so predictable. It’s like when a waiters asks you “how was your meal?” and you say “terrible” as you laugh and hand over a plate you’ve all but licked clean. What this answer allows me to do is open a dialogue around strict adherence to an aggressive project plan that typically requires the client to run at a pace faster than they are used to. Being on the consultant side of that deadline, my main focus will be the delivery of this project, however my clients usually don’t have that luxury because our projects are typically in addition to their normal day to day job.
So, I respond with “we can run as fast as you can” as we’ve run this race before. We almost always slow down during engagements where unreasonable timelines are requested initially because the opening pace is just too fast for the client to maintain.
This brings me to a clarification I would like to make when it comes to delivery expectations: fast is not always right. This does not mean we cannot do each of our tasks quickly, but there is an important distinction between “fast” and “quick” that must be understood. While it may seem like fast and quick are synonyms, by definition, “fast” refers to speed and “quick” refers to timeline. Therefore, “fast” is more closely synonymous with “rushed”. When I think of rushing through something, I anticipate mistakes and missed requirements.
So in the interest in accomplishing all strategic goals, let’s not try to do things fast for the sake of hitting a deadline. Let’s take a moment in the beginning to understand our true project requirements and work quickly to complete tasks thoroughly to allow us to deliver on quality, on budget and quickly, which usually satisfies a reasonable timeline expectation.