A while back (June of 2010 actually) I wrote my first blog on Patience. Good patience is one of those elements that can help build great teams or more importantly, lack of good patience can quickly break down a team. In that first blog on patience, I referred to a client who would lose his patience when he didn’t see sufficient progress as critical deadlines approached. I’m convinced there is one key part of that statement that must not be overlooked – “As critical deadlines approached.”
Coming out of engineering school, I spent the first decade of my career immersed in project management for several large projects. That decade left me with a couple of very deeply held beliefs:
1. You can only make up about 10% of a remaining schedule.
2. Projects schedules are lost at the beginning, not at the end of the schedule.
I do not consider these belief’s as hard and fast rules but more solid “rule-of-thumb” concepts. After closely tracking many major projects from engineering to construction to software design and development, I became convinced that you could only make up about 10% of the remainder of any schedule. In other words, if you are tackling a project that will take about four weeks of effort (20 working days) you will run into difficulties if you let the first two days slip by without accomplishing the first stages of the project. It seems so innocent, “The project is not due until next month and it won’t make much difference if I don’t get started until the end of the week or first thing next week.” Wrong! While it’s likely that you will in fact complete the project on time, you’ll not fully appreciate how much those first lost days will add to the stress, overworked, overwhelming feeling of not having enough time to accomplish everything as the weeks move along and all of your other projects get layered on top of these “delayed” projects.
Which leads me to my second belief: projects schedules are lost at the beginning, not at the end of the schedule. It’s not what you accomplish or don’t accomplish during that last week of a four week schedule that makes the difference between success and failure (or stress vs an orderly pace), it’s what you did or didn’t do during that first week of the four week schedule that makes the difference. Unfortunately, we’ve forgotten all about what we put off during that first week and therefore don’t associate with that feeling of being overwhelmed and overworked during the last week of the project.
Patience doesn’t happen by reacting calmly to missed deadlines. Patience is induced by setting aggressive early checkpoints on projects so that they experience an orderly pace as the deadline approaches.
• Don’t forget your own learning curve (from the first blog). Leaders must work harder than they expect to help people understand new expectations, learn new processes, and have a vision of the new normal.
• Patience is improved and put to better use when there is more discipline at the beginning of a project instead of trying to handle the pressure better at the end of a project.