On Deadline

I recently finished reading Deadline! How Premier Organizations Win The Race Against Time by Dan Carrison.

In this book Dan shares “numerous, practical deadline-management techniques” through a number of case studies. As listed in the introductions these include learning how to:

” -Prepare for a deadline template for future deadlines

-Begin before the starter’s gun, and without the expected conditions

-Create a deadline-oriented corporate culture, in which your people eat deadlines for breakfast

-Make it easier for your consumers to make their deadlines

-Mold your “free spirits” into a confident deadline team

-Move “slower” and be “faster” in the long run

-Stay in “the driver’s seat” during even the most critical deadlines

-Maintain a state of deadline readiness

-Celebrate problems within an open, sharing, team environment

-Think beyond the deadline “.

The learnings and lessons from this book are distributed through six chapters each re-telling a deadline-based challenge.

Below is a summary of excerpts that I found particularly insightful:

1- “Although not all deadlines require a safety director, they do require a similar guardian to protect enthusiastic “corporate soldiers” from themselves. Deadlines create a crisis environment; under pressure we are all apt to risk, if not our own safety, our better judgement… Emil’s leadership style of pushing – and of delegating someone to push back occasionally – is worth emulating on any time-critical project.” 2- ” 1- In the interest of time, partner with your adversary, 2- Encourage your customer to be part of the delivery process. Make it “we”, not “they”. 3- Start where you can; don’t wait to “clear the decks.” 4- Put all decision makers, or their empowered delegates, under one roof for the duration of the deadline. 5- Decentralize the command structure. Let those closest to the task make the decisions. 6- Make everybody a believer in the schedule. No one anywhere should give the impression that the deadline could slip. 7) Be intense. Take advantage of every opportunity NOW. 8) Understand why you’re off schedule before you develop a recovery schedule. 9) Improve agencies, review boards, gatekeepers, etc., early on in the process. 10) Bring your other project “allies” on board before they’re actually needed. 11) Appoint a protective counterparty to “driven management”. 12) Burn your boats, like Ceasar. Show your team there is not alternative to victory. 13) Make the deadline a high profile project, so that everybody involved, from the top down, is proud to be part of it. 14) Settle conflicts immediately; don’t allow a cooling-off period. 15) Include a “sharing clause” in your contract, then share the savings among your team members when the deadline is beaten ahead of time. 16) Delegate team members to anticipate future problems. 17) If it is truly a “mission impossible,” don’t accept it. Either present a more realistic schedule or walk away. 18) Embrace the deadline!.”

2- “1- While loyally representing your own organization, be an advocate for the “other side.” 2- Create a corporate culture in which risks will be taken. 3- Involve the customer in the beta test. 4- Create a deadline-oriented corporate culture. 5- Instill a “zero error tolerated” mentality. 6- Identify “points of visibility” throughout your processes. 7- Appoint a single voice of authority. 8- Make it easy for the customer to make the deadline. 9- Hang on to your counterpart in another organization. 10- Protect your own people from having to choose between priorities. 11- Never identify an even higher priority within your “high priorities.” 12- Proactively prevent a “let down” after a major success. 13- Develop a parallel plan. 14- Remember – deadlines being out your best.”

3- “1- Be willing to subjugate your personality in the interests of the deadline. 2- Margin can be doled out incrementally or given away up front. Consider creating a marketplace to swap margin. 3- Make use of award-based incentives for your deadline team. 4- Model your team after your counterpart’s team structure. 5- Mold your “free spirits” into a functioning team. 6- Prevent burnout proactively on the part of your team members. 7- Cultivate leadership by letting your team decide major issues. 8- Make your deadline highly visible. 9- Discourage subcultures by encouraging the Big Picture.”

4- “1- Remain in the driver’s seat throughout the deadline. 2- Provide your team with the tools needed to meet the deadline. 3- Put the customer first to eliminate subsequent second-guessing. 4- Maintain a deadline log. 5- Conduct debriefings after each deadline. 6- Incorporate “lessons learned” into company policy. 7- Create a deadline template to deal with a sudden deadline. 8- Maintain a state of readiness – departmentally and personally. 9- Make sure your deadline team remains “likable.””

5- “1- Be sure you are listening to the customer. 2- Create conditions in which your people are forthcoming about their problems. 3- Share early and share often. 4- Constructive use of peer pressure is a management tool. 5- Panic early. 6- Public relations, when it shares the risk, can be a great partner in meeting the deadline. 7- Have one plan, not many agendas. 8- Celebrate the significant milestones, rather than wait until the end date. 9- Offer your customers a challenge they cannot refuse. 10- Think beyond the immediate requirements of the deadline. 11- Don’t let your customers miss their deadlines.”

6- “1- Even short-term deadlines require front-end loading. 2- Recruit by personality as much as by experience. 3- Invest in across-the-board leadership cultivation. 4- Present a unified front of executive support. 5- Partner with the passion of the workforce. 6- Closure is a managerial responsibility. 7- Volunteerism may be the ultimate deadline management tool.”

7- “Each of the deadlines described in this book involved risk…Yet, one could not find more conservative organizations! The inherent risks  in these projects were not accepted by corporate swash-bucklers who revel in danger. These challenges were accepted by serious professionals who immediately went about finding ways to reduce the risk, by preparing backup plans, by brainstorming creative solutions, and even by taking out literal insurance policies.”


Omar Halabieh



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