Making & Missing Deadlines

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This week I missed my self-imposed deadline for this blog’s posting schedule. An article is supposed to be posted to this blog by Thursday of every week. I have no other commitments with this blog other than the “once a week post by Thursday” rule.

This week I missed my deadline. I failed to post by Thursday.

That is not okay. You can never justify missing a deadline, especially in the world of IT where business plans will be foiled and windows of opportunity will be missed if deadlines are not met. You need to keep your projects on schedule, because other projects are dependent upon them.

Why did I miss my blogging deadline? I was working to meet a deadline for a client.

Some of you might read that and think “Missing your blogging deadline is acceptable in that situation. You do not get paid to write this blog. You have to take care of your work commitments first.”

Not true. All deadlines that you agree to are to be met. I put myself in a position where I had to choose between meeting one deadline over another. I watched a movie last weekend to relax. I could have skipped that and written my blog post. I met with a friend for dinner. I could have left that dinner an hour earlier and written my blog post. I spent a few hours one night designing my new home lab layout. I could have spent one of those hours writing my blog post.

To be completely honest here I am not kicking myself for failing to meet my deadline. I am just not going to make a false justification for not meeting my deadline. You are going to have conflicting obligations. The world is not a perfect place. Deadlines will be missed. We are all only human.

My desire here is not to create a false expectation that my life will run like clockwork and every deadline that I commit to will be met. My concern is that if I do fail to meet a deadline that I do not make an excuse for that failure. Excuses fail to acknowledge that there was a problem, and if you fail to acknowledge that there was a problem you are unlikely to solve that same problem if you should encounter it again.

For example, if you are working on an IT project and you continue to discover new issues that require more and more of your time to design for and solve than you may miss a deadline because of an unexpected increase in your workload. You can make an excuse and blame your missing that deadline on the unexpected increase in your workload and possibly others will be understanding of the situation. After all, you did your best and the project was bigger than you originally thought it was. You would not have committed to the original deadline if you knew just how much work was involved.

That sounds very reasonable, but in the end it is bullshit we tell ourselves and others in a childish attempt to avoid being blamed for missing a deadline.

The better approach would be to admit and accept that you missed your deadline. After analyzing how you missed your deadline you conclude that it was because you had to do more work than you originally estimated would be needed for the project. You determine that in order to prevent missing deadlines for the same reason again on future projects you must ask more questions to better determine the scope of the work needed. You then revise your list of questions accordingly and you are now better prepared to make your deadline with your next project.

That is what happened to me this week. I kept uncovering potential problems that needed to be addressed with my client’s environment in my designs. I made my deadline that I had committed to with my client, but to do so I chose to miss making the deadline that I have for this blog. Now I know that I need to ask more questions during the analysis phase of my projects, and I came to that conclusion because I started with an acknowledgement of having missed a deadline instead of simply making an excuse for having missed a deadline.

Keep this article in mind if you ever find yourself in a situation where you missed a deadline. Even if there are good reasons to explain why the deadline was missed do not turn them into excuses to justify a missed deadline. Use those reasons as a starting point for discovering how you can improve your processes, acknowledge that missing the deadline was your fault, and learn from the incident so as to prevent more missed deadlines in the future.

You cannot improve without having first made and acknowledging your mistakes, and IT professionals should always be looking for ways to improve the world around them. Sometimes that means improving ourselves.

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One Response to Making & Missing Deadlines

  1. Pingback: Being Prepared For The Unpredictable - Patrick Benson, IT Professional

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