Management series: how to manage employees who miss deadlines?
If you eliminate time-wasting and account for unexpected diversions, 99% of missed-deadlines are missed because their plan was no good in the first place.
Start teaching the fundamentals of planning and working a plan in your regular one-on-ones. Make the employee’s next assignment to make a comprehensive plan for his primary responsibilities/projects. Use your one-on-one time to work on the plan together, providing guidance and feedback along the way: Take that person’s current bigger goals one by one; break them into intermediate benchmarks along the way; and break the intermediate benchmarks into smaller goals/deadlines along the way. Then look at those smaller goals/deadlines and map out the concrete actions necessary to reach each goal/deadline, including a timetable for the concrete actions. That’s how you lay out the work, piece by piece, into a realistic plan of action.
Delegation 101 is really synonymous with teaching employees the fundamentals of planning. Delegation 101 is all about clearly articulating goals, specifications, and deadlines.
In your ongoing one-on-ones, you figure out over time with each employee:
- How big should the goals be?
- How far out should the deadlines be?
- How many guidelines are necessary with each goal?
- What are the intermediate and smaller goals along the way and what is the timeline for those? These are always moving targets. That’s why there is no end in sight to this discussion. It’s just another part of your ongoing one-on-one dialogue.
Start small. Teach that employee to deliver on one very small goal with a very short deadline and meets all the specifications. Then maybe a little bit bigger. And then a little bigger still. Over time you can move toward projects with more ambitious goals and longer deadlines. As an employee demonstrates proficiency and performance, gradually increase the amount and importance of the work you assign, until you reach that person’s appropriate scope of responsibility.
If the plan is a good one and goals are realistic, but short-term goals are still being missed, you need to go down onto the scene and watch closely to see what’s going wrong. Is there an obstacle slowing down performance that you can remove? Is there a resource missing that you can provide? Is there a short-cut that the employee does not utilize? Diversions? Time-wasters? Sometimes there’s just not enough fire in the bellies. Sometimes there’s not enough fire under their chairs.
Drill down and coach: “If you have one hundred phone calls to make, you start with the first one, move on to the second, and then the third, and so on. Each call is a concrete action. Every concrete action can be broken down into smaller components and each small component is, itself, another concrete action. If you get bogged down with the feeling that you are ‘not getting anything done,’ break every task into its smaller components and start tackling them one at a time. You will start moving forward.”