How to meet deadlines and avoid losing money on projects

Have you ever wondered why technology is so hard to build? Do you find your team constantly missing deadlines or projects never end at all? This is overly common simply due to poor setup and inability to prioritize work and meet deadlines. As Thomas A. Edison once said, “Set yourself up for failure and you’ll win every time.” You’re probably setting this failure up unknowingly by not defining the goal of the project. There are lots of ways to sabotage you and your team. Here’s how to set yourself up for success every time.

Have a company strategy

Without having a strategic approach, it’s hard for any business to get very far. Even if it’s unintended, your company has a place in the market and is moving toward a specific direction within it. Simply taking the time to recognize this and use it to your advantage can actually affect all projects and teams. How?

Giving overall direction to your company means setting goals for projects can become clearer.

If your team and managers know of your goals, they can make more strategic decisions and be trusted with more autonomy leaving project success more likely.

Set a Goal Metric

Once you have a company strategy, your project’s goal should be set to support this. Goal metrics are the clearest way to set accountability on both stakeholder and design team alike.

The more measurable the goal is, the clearer and more focused your project efforts will be.

For example, redesigning a marketing site to be “more modern” can be seen as a goal. A better goal, however, might be to achieve a 10% higher conversion rate from your redesign after the first month of launch. You then attach this black & white metric to the project’s due date. This means missing the deadline also means missing your metric. These higher stakes mean project due dates are less likely to be missed.

Addressing the “Scope Creep” Problem

Having your metric attached to timeline should create hesitation whenever anything is added to the project. Do we REALLY need this cool animation to solve the drop-off problem? Will the change of button color REALLY bring us closer towards a 10% increase in subscriptions? Will having the latest design trend on our home screen really draw people into our sales funnel? The answer is probably no to a lot of added changes to projects. The simple reason is that they simply never help towards the goal metric.

Have a rule to only add to your project if the feature is needed to serve your goal and watch as near none of them make the cut.

Setting Timelines Correctly

Sometimes we can not prioritize work and meet deadlines simply because they weren’t set properly. Setting a timeline masterfully takes a real insight into how your team works and what it’s capable of. You could do this one of two ways.


  1. Setting a date and working backward against team capabilities
  2. Evaluate your team’s capabilities to dictate your timeline

In either case, it’s important to know your team’s strengths to determine the feasibility of what can be done and how long it will take each team and person. To set a date and work backward, for example, you’ll likely need to compensate on what features you could realistically get done. Sometimes when working with development teams, it’s a good exercise for them to create a technical plan for development and have them base a rough time estimate against this plan.

In other words, not biting off more than your team can chew can make the difference of hitting or missing a targeted date.

Easy Management

A funny thing happens when you combine hard numbers to people. Much like in sports, using hard numbers as targets captivates a team around a shared goal. It removes politics while providing conflict resolution by removing subjectivity. When a dispute arises, resolutions can be dictated by the goal.

As an added benefit, having more perspectives on a single goal can offer new creative solutions. Your team may be more open to sharing these if they realize it isn’t a person they are serving, but an effort they can actively support.

Healthy cultures at companies can thrive under hard numbers.

Effective Process

If you’ve got the rest of these tips set up correctly, the ultimate step to ensuring you meet deadlines is your process. Processes can be dictated by a traditional Kanban or Agile process or be customized to the resources you have on your team. Think back to the most successful project your team has released and ask yourself what process is used. Or, if you have less control over your processes, add a simple retrospect at the end of each project. Have each member of the team discuss what they thought worked best and what they need to be changed in order to deliver better. Take notes and adjust what you can for the next project.

Not hitting deadlines is a small symptom to great company cultural problems. Use your downfalls to your advantage by exploring these tips to make culture and deadlines a little better for you and your team.