How to Address the Missed Deadline Elephant

02 Oct
by Bridget DiCello

The elephant is the huge problem (they frequently miss task deadlines) that is preventing you from being able to successfully address the problem at hand (one missed deadline).

Speak in a way that demonstrates your determination and your belief that they will resolve these situations successfully.  Ask all questions with genuine curiosity.

I noticed that Task A was not completed by the deadline.  What happened?

Employee:  Excuse, excuse

I’d like to hear your plan to complete Task A and to communicate with the stakeholder.  Before we have that discussion, I’d like to discuss a situation that seems to be recurring.

Not only did Task A not get done by today,  Task B did not get done by the deadline earlier this week, Task C did not get done by a deadline last week and Task D was a month late.

Let them speak, and then continue.

When you and I have spoken about these past due tasks, you tend to mention the fires that have arisen and the obstacles that others’ have created.  Knowing that fires will arise and you will need to effectively communicate with, and rely on, others to get your job done well, I’d like to discuss what you will do differently in order to complete your tasks by deadlines, despite these realities.

Let them speak, and then continue.

Each of these deadlines is real deadlines that exist to meet the needs of our customers, and they are not moveable.  When we miss them, there are tangible negative consequences for our customers.

Explore all variables:

  • § What types of tasks do you find you have the most difficulty in completing?
  • § You have agreed to the deadlines.  Can you explain how you determine your plan to meet deadlines before you agree?
  • § Share with me how you prioritize your week.  Your day?
  • § What are the most common ‘fires’ that pull you off task?
    • Are you the best person to address those fires?
    • How do you determine if they need to be addressed immediately?

Then, get commitment to no more than three specific action items about what they will do differently in order to interrupt this recurring pattern – and set a specific time to follow up.  They write the action items on paper and make you a copy.  These are specific items and detail different behavior from the current actions, not simply to “try harder” or “focus more.”

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