Originally published on the Sutton Integrated Blog.
There is nothing constructive about handing out a project, disappearing, and coming back at the end only to be unhappy with the results. This is what I call last-minute-management. You set a bad precedent by doing this. On their next project, a disgruntled employee might be wary of putting too much time and effort into their work because they know you’re just going to come back at the end with changes. This unrest causes an unproductive and negative environment that no one wants to work in.
Here are some tips to avoid last-minute-management, increase productivity, and create a good environment for your employees.
Start on the Same Page
Have a clear plan from the start, and make sure both you and your employees are on the same page. You wouldn’t give a painter a canvas and say “paint me a tree”, only to be disappointed for them coming back with a painting of a maple tree. If there are specifics you want covered, then state them from the beginning. What kind of tree? What season is it? What colours do you want? How much of the canvas should the tree take up? The more detailed you can be, the better the end result.
Set a Timeline
The only way to get something done on time is to set up a timeline. A timeline should not be just a finish date. Think smaller. Break up the work into chunks. If you’re building a website, talk to your developer and ask them how much time they think they’ll need. Then how much time they’ll need per page. Go even smaller if you need to. Set a deadline for the home page to get done, then for the about page, etc. To be on the safe side, give yourself an extra week or two upon setting your initial finish date and, if need be, make adjustments on that time while you work. It’s better to be earlier than expected than later.
Get Everything in Writing
Memories are fickle. They warp and change in time. Just because you told your employee a change yesterday, doesn’t mean they’ll remember today. They’re people, just like the rest of us, and sometimes they have other things on their minds. So even if you speak with someone about an important issue related to the project, follow that change up with something written. An email has the added bonus of a date and timestamp of when you talked in case any discrepancies occur. This also creates a line of contact. If anything comes up, they can email you questions and you give answers, and you can follow the chain of events as they go.
Ask for Updates and Check in
If you want something done right and done on time, you have to make sure both you and your employees are held accountable. This can be as easy as a project update or check in email. Depending on the size of the project, ask for daily or weekly updates on their work. Checking in is also beneficial as it shows that you’re just as invested in the project as they are.
Be Open and Trusting
The most important thing is to be open and trusting. Have a relationship with your employees that is comfortable enough for them to come and ask questions if they need. Use positive reinforcement instead of being harsh. Focus on what they’re doing right, and offer advice in anything that’s not quite there yet. However, trust in their ideas as well. The employee was hired because they carry a certain skill set, so trust that they know what’s right too. In fact, they may know even better than you do. Be open to the possibility that you’re wrong. Be the manager you would want to have.