Beware the "it'll get done in 2 weeks"!
Anyway, on to the topic of the day.
So I've had variations of this happen to me before, but this time it hit me harder than usual and I dealt with it worse than I usually.
Imagine the following conversation between me and an engineer not on my team:
- Me: "Hey, We need you to do blah blah blah"
- Him: "Sure. We need to do blah blah anyway. It should be done in 2 weeks."
- Me: "Cool! 2 weeks works."
- Him: "Great."
1.5 weeks later
- Me: "Hey, are you close to getting blah blah done?"
- Him: "Oh...not yet. We haven't started yet because of this other blah blah."
- Me: "Oh..."
- Him: "But it'll be done in two weeks as soon we finish ther other blah blah."
Another week later
- Me: "Hey, so..."
- Him: "Blah blah is now really 2 weeks away. We're going to start on it."
Another 2 days later
- Me: "About blah blah..."
- Him: "Oh yeah...we're almost there. Just another two weeks."
The next day
- Me: "You're at least a day less than two weeks away now right?"
- Him: "Well... yeah. two weeks."
Now there were a number of reasons this happened, and they're amongst the typical ones:
- Two weeks (especially if you think of it as including two weekends just-in-case :-)) seems like a ridiculously long amount of time.
- People (always!) over-estimate what they can do in a given time.
- People work on a bunch of things and something that's not due immediately doesn't seem as urgent and can slip.
Many awesome PMs at Google have told me: "You need to have a date to aim for. Always. For everything"
The "Always. For everything" part is important. There are many reasons to tell yourself this does not apply to a particular situation, e.g "But this is research" or "But, we're not going to do anything for a while." etc. etc.
The trick to doing this well is
- always setting a date
- always setting a date that makes sense (i.e. is determined by the person who is actually doing the work)
- knowing at what granularity you need to set dates, and what the deliverables for those dates need to be.