5 tips for PMs that will make working with deadlines a breeze
Every month “deadline” is googled 550,000 times. Deadlines might cause stress, anxiety, and even difficulty sleeping.
Five tips for PM that will make working with deadlines a breeze:
Someone’s commitment is not your commitment
99% of deadlines are artificial
Do not commit to features
Do not commit too soon
Shorten the planning horizon
Now in detail:
1. Someone’s commitment is not your commitment
Many take deadlines too personally. Ask yourself: did your stakeholder ask you before committing? If not, that’s theirs, not your commitment.
Others can formulate expectations, but they can’t make you make promises. Read this out loud: “I make you promise me to finish this by the end of January.”
2. 99% of deadlines are artificial
Deadlines are not set in stone. I have never seen a deadline that, when missed, would make the Universe explode.
In most cases, those accurate dates are taken out of thin air. Deadlines can bend and take different shapes.
After all, a product or its module is never “Done.”
3. Do not commit to features
Nobody cares about the features (output). The thing that matters is solving a problem. Ensuring meaningful outcomes.
Unfortunately, most of the ideas on how to do it do not work. So when asked about the outputs, you need to reverse-engineer the problem. Talk to your stakeholders. Ask them how they will measure a success.
The next step is to ask them: “If we do it differently, would that be ok”?
The linchpin of empowerment is giving teams problems and holding them accountable for the outcomes. This enables intrinsic motivation and a sense of ownership and lets them innovate.
4. Do not commit too soon
There are cases when your business needs a specific date. The most important rule is not to make those commitments too soon.
Ask for additional time to address those 5 risks:
Value. Will it create value for the customers?
Usability. Will users figure out how to use it?
Viability. Can our business support it?
Feasibility. Can it be done (technology)?
Ethics. Should we do it?
Product Discovery results in a validated product backlog. This means 5 risks are significantly reduced. And you can make so-called “high-integrity commitments” (Marty Cagan, Inspired).
Even then, try to commit to outcomes, not features.
5. Shorten the planning horizon
The risks accumulate over time. The Cone of Uncertainty states that the future becomes increasingly unpredictable as the planning horizon increases.
I have never seen a detailed plan longer than 3 months that has stood the test of time. The best strategy is to focus on the nearest future and significantly reduce the commitments for the following months.
That said, I think committing to solving a problem by a given date might sometimes work as an “enabler.” As long we interpret commitment as an ambition or desire. A SMART goal. Time-bound Key Result. The outcome we care about.
But never a promise.
Loved this one. Leading with ETAs for the sake of having a date is a stakeholder trust killer when your team fails to hit them.
Overall agreed and good summary but I cannot seen how someone is telling this 'Someone’s commitment is not your commitment' to your sponsor in a steerco.