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Deadlines Create Energy

If you want to add more energy to your organization, and get it moving faster, use deadlines!

Huh? People always use deadlines. What is so great about deadlines energizing an organization?

We are not talking about just any deadline; we are talking about realistic deadlines that have teeth.

We have all left that meeting when someone in the meeting asked us to perform a task, without giving us a clear deadline. Absent a specific deadline, we are left to our own interpretations. And unfortunately, more often than not, the assignor's and recipient's assumptions may not match. Then, they'll follow up is awkward, at best, especially when you have already missed the other person's perceived target date.

Here is how you can use deadlines to energize your organization:

Give the deadline a specific day and time. Too often, deadlines are stated in the form of a day or date. This can lead to misinterpretation, as the task may be needed the morning of that date, rather than at the close of work -- much less midnight. By providing the time by which it is due, you avoid all misinterpretation.

State the deadline, don't ask. Most coworkers will give themselves more time on a project rather than less. By your stating that deadline, date and time, you will be able to provide more energy to the project. If the deadline is truly unrealistic, the assignee will let you know, and it is important for you to be open to feedback.

Make sure that deadline is relevant. Too many managers set arbitrary deadlines, which make no sense for the project. By realistically relating the deadline to the actual work or end product, you will develop respect and appreciation among those to whom you are assigning work.

Explain the relevance of the deadline. In addition to being relevant, it is important that the relevance is understood and explained to the person assigned with completing the task. The more they know and understand about how and why the task must be accomplished by a certain time, the more commitment they will have to meeting the deadline.

Make sure there is clarity about the person responsible for meeting the deadline. All too often, work is assigned, but it is not clearly stated which person is ultimately responsible for the completion of the task. I always like to use the “Who is going to do What, by When?" question when assigning work.

Set diaries and controls. Deadlines mean nothing, if there is no diary or control set up to monitor it. For every deadline you set, there should be a matching diary or reminder.

Set the expectation that advance notice is required if deadlines are in jeopardy. By letting your coworkers know that you expect to be notified in advance of a missed deadline, rather than after the deadline has come and gone, you will promote proactive responsibility regarding the completion of the task.

Resist solving the problem. In the situation when you are proactively notified that a deadline may be missed, challenge the coworker with coming up with a solution. Avoid being too quick to extend deadlines, because you may find yourself spending more time extending deadlines, than getting to your own work. Managing the expectations of your workgroup around the importance of the deadlines you set will drive performance.

Acknowledge the meeting of deadlines. Whenever a deadline is met, your letting the person know that you appreciate their diligence in completing the work by the targeted deadline will go a long way to assuring that it happens again. The reverse is true as well. By not acknowledging met deadlines, people feel unappreciated, and question the value of the deadline.

No tolerance for missed deadlines. In every case of a missed deadline, address it. While you may consider this harsh, this is the key to how deadlines will energize your company or organization. And it must be underscored, that this should happen every time a deadline is missed. Not addressing a missed deadline to essentially validates the behavior. In a forward moving, energized organization, we want coworkers to value and respect assigned target dates, and the best way to do it is to not allow any slippage.

Deadlines can truly energize your organization. Be specific as to the day and time, reward the behavior you want to see, and make sure your coworkers understand the importance and relevance of each deadline you set -- then just get out of the way!

What ideas can you share about making deadlines stick? Tell us!