Last week's article was about goal setting. I explained why dates can be challenging to predict, yet important to the business. I also talked a bit about why it's critical to limit your number of goals to improve your consistency and flexibility.

Yet despite our best efforts, we'll inevitably miss some goals. Things will be harder than expected. Things will take longer than expected. Critical work will come up. There's an unlimited list of reasons why you may be heading towards goal failure.

Even as you head towards goal failure, there are a variety of things to keep in mind. Being successful isn't about never failing, it's also about being thoughtful as you encounter problems.

Here are a few essential things to think about.

  1. Know the business impact of the delay – What happens when you miss your date?
  2. Minimize the negative impact – How can you minimize the business pain of missing that date?
  3. Reinstate predictability – The business needs predictability with their deliverables. How do you recreate predictability?

Missing goals and obsessing about yourself

When you realize that you're about to miss an important date, what's the first thing that goes through your head?

For many people, it's the impact to them. They think about how their boss will feel, their peers will feel, what people will say, and how it might impact their career.

This obsession with personal impact can cause serious impact to your ability to react properly to an issue.

I remember a time we were launching a major new feature for a business line. The marketing and PR teams had lined up a series of announcements across various websites, and a set of advertisements which would go live shortly after launch.

One critical team involved in the feature launch realized a few days before launch that they had a major bug in the feature. It was unlaunchable.

The manager of the team panicked. Brent ran around the office for a few hours, frantically getting information from his team, and the QA department. We all gathered for a status update a few hours later.

PR: We have pulled the planned announcements. Let us know the new launch date, so we can reschedule things.

Brent: Ok, we're pretty sure we understand what went wrong with the software. I think we can slip the launch date from Monday to Wednesday, and that can give us enough time to test it over the weekend and get it ready.

Here's a set of interesting questions:

  1. Why was this date set?

It was an arbitrary date set many months previous, based on when everyone thought the project would be ready to launch.

2.  What impact on the business is there for a delay?

Other than rescheduling the PR/Marketing plans, no major impact.

3. What is the risk to the business by rushing a fix over a weekend?

This carefully planned major project has a higher chance now of having a major customer impacting bug. A major customer impacting bug is often significantly more expensive than a long delay.

4.  What did that manager just do?

They just suggested that they turn a slight project delay into an emergency fix, which has a chance of causing a major business impact. The potential negative impact here is significantly worse than missing the date once.