Today’s hyper-competitive marketplace has design firms in an ever-tightening project cycle, and project delivery is an everyday concern for hundreds of thousands of small businesses. Around the country, architectural, civil, and other design firms are working harder to deliver better-quality designs in less time. Needless to say, this situation makes meeting deadlines increasingly important.
Delivering projects on time is not only required in order to build an excellent reputation in your market, but it is also absolutely essential when competing for new projects. A track record of projects delivered on time builds confidence in clients and staff members alike. Building an environment that encourages meeting deadlines on time is an investment that can deliver great returns. Building that environment can be as easy as trying any of the following three tips to make sure you are meeting your deadlines and delivering projects on time.
1. Define the Project. Defining a project is the first and one of the most critical steps on the road to prompt project delivery. At the beginning of every project, several items must be clear to all members of the team. These critical items include project goals, team member responsibilities, milestone dates, and final delivery date. Ensuring that there is a clear understanding of all these matters from the beginning is the first step to delivering projects on time, every time.
Practice It: Thoroughly communicating with team members can often be a difficult task for many architects and engineers. If that is the case, try disseminating a project detail sheet to every member of the team. Be sure to list all pertinent information such as job number, team member contact info, project outline, and project milestone schedule.
2. Evaluate the Project. Setting a project on the right course is an excellent step toward meeting deadlines, but it may not be enough. To keep projects on schedule, it is necessary to keep track of all progress throughout the life of the project. The easiest way to do this is with periodic progress assessments. This key goal of effective project management can be accomplished with formal meetings, informal updates, or a simple phone call or an office visit to project managers.
Practice It: While quarterly or even monthly progress checks might be effective, they can often be difficult to face. Allowing that much time to pass can allow a great deal of information to accumulate. Instead of waiting weeks or even months to check progress, try weekly—or even daily—assessments. Investing just a few minutes per week could keep project evaluations up to date and reduce the stress of progress meetings.
3. Deliver the Project on a Designated Day. All the best practices in the world will be for naught if you can’t actually get the project out the door. Whether it is running prints, burning CDs, or just trying to find the tape gun, there are plenty of factors that contribute to a hectic delivery day. However, a large part of this can be avoided by simply designating a certain day of the week as “Delivery Day.” This will be a day dedicated to printing, packaging, and shipping projects, not production. This method, if enforced, will ensure that production is complete at least one day in advance of the deadline, giving you time to be ready for the UPS guy.
Practice It: Dedicating a certain day of the week for delivery is a great step for your team. However, there are certain days that are not so great for deliveries (or meetings, for that matter). Avoid Mondays and Fridays for your delivery days. Both of these are common federal holidays, days for PTO, and just not very productive days due to weekend fatigue or anticipation. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are your prime candidates for your project-boxing day.
Getting the project out the door and to the client may, in fact, be the most important part of owning or working for a small architecture, civil, or other design firm. After all, no one is ever going to know how brilliant your latest design is if they never get to see it! So use these fast and simple steps to give your team and yourself the best chance of showing your client how great you are.
Do you have war stories of working all-nighters and partaking in intravenous coffee drips? Or is your project delivery ship sailing smoothly along the open seas of small-business profitability? Either way, leave us a comment and share your delivery-date voodoo with us.