As the project manager at Rocksauce Studios, I live in a world of spreadsheets and calendars. I’m responsible for scheduling out each and every projects based on budget and making sure that we have the necessary resources to hit our deadline. By the nature of the job, I’m something of a slave driver. I have to crack the whip and make sure everyone stays on task and knows what they’re doing!
There have been several instances where a client has come to us with a sudden, rushed deadline. Since our main objective is to always deliver the best possible product while meeting the clients needs and expectations, if possible we always strive to accommodate such deadlines.
So…what’s the secret to managing the team toward a sudden deadline?
The basic answer is spreadsheets and lots of ‘em! And calendars and lists, of course. Lots and lots of lists. I try to keep things pretty basic, mainly because, in my experience, the simpler solutions tend to be the better solutions. For example, I use the standard Google Calendar and Gmail to create schedules. It’s easy adjust and modify on the fly (thank you drag and drop!) and it works in perfect conjunction with our company email accounts. There are other scheduling softwares out there, but they’re far more expensive and not nearly as easy to use.
Of course, that’s but one step. There are plenty of other ways to make the impossible happen. As it’s in my nature to make lists, here’s one now!
Think ahead! Plan out the big picture of the project (how long you have for each individual phase of the project in order to meet the final goal/deadline).
Restructure the schedule and look for any holds or delays caused by pending client feedback on other projects.
Set proper client expectations from the beginning! Quick turnaround on their feedback and approval aids in keeping things moving quickly in a crunch. Do not overcommit. That will only end in pain.
Maintaining constant client contact is crucial in these situations. It not only helps them to know that things are constantly moving forward to meet their goal, but helps the process move at the necessary speed. It is their baby, after all!
Make a contingency plan just in case any possible delays rear their ugly head from either end! Issues and problems of any kind are bound to pop up during any project…the best practice for this is planning ahead from the trial and error of previous projects. Software can be unpredictable, so if there is any room for a buffer, work it into the timeline!
Motivate the designers/teams as they go! This helps with the long hours, overtime, and weekends they often have to pull on rush projects. Nothing lifts the spirits quite like a surprise pizza party.
Communicate with developers or any third parties as much as possible. Any steps that can be overlapped need to be overlapped!
Internal review and approval is always important but exceptionally important here. If a project moves on to the next stage with an issue that has been missed, it will come up in development and can endanger hitting the goal. The Rocksauce team is great about pulling together for the common good in these situations. We’re all in this together.
And finally…trust. Trust your team. Trust their talent. Trust their work ethic. Without trust, the whole project can fall apart!
Oh, yeah. Make a calendar!