Managing Expectations in Project Timelines (with FAQ)

As we’ve delivered products through the years, managing timelines – and stakeholders’ perceptions thereof – has been an interesting source of teachable moments.

The snarky note below was for a core team-only. The tone in it is not recommended for general stakeholders. The FAQ covers two main recurring points; additional contributions would be great – please send them.

Our April 11th due date for Final Design approval and sign off is now missed by at least 20 days. None of the later milestones, therefore, were hit. Everyone should understand that the other dates – Production, Coding, Integration, Testing, Launch – move out accordingly.  Even so, I don’t want to presume this understanding is there throughout the rest of our extended team, so I’d like to send a new timeline out to everyone. I’d also like your help in backing me up and reïterating this message. 

I have some FAQs prepared that I can send (e.g. “Q: But you said Launch was May 15! How can it not be May 15!?”; “Q: But this latest design is so much like the existing design! Doesn’t that mean it’s really easy to put in place”)

Thanks, and please let me know if you’ve got feedback for me before I circulate our new timelines for this relaunch.

The Team

Btw –

A: Because of the relatively fixed nature of the space / time continuum, moving one point affects the other points in a directly-proportional ratio
A. No – it’s still a design job that requires Design, production and coding that needs to happen with the same resources we have in place today.

Corollary: “Q: So, can’t we get some more help to speed it up? More designers, Producers and coders to still hit our date two whole weeks from now?”
A: Sorry, but no. Especially in such tight timeframes, adding additional resources does not automatically mean our time-to-market improves. Getting external resources up to speed could help in a longer-term project, but not one that’s expected in just a few weeks. A re-launch project like this is like giving birth to a new life. Giving birth takes about nine months for humans. Adding additional resources to the pregnancy will not speed up the birth. 

By Steve McNally

I build products, teams and business lines that blend publishing, marketing and advertising technologies for global brands and startups.