Communicate a Project Scheduling Delay
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Delays happen; it’s simply a fact of life. Unforeseen events pop up and have to be accounted for. A delay itself is rarely a huge issue unless it’s handled poorly, and when handled properly it can actually increase the amount of trust a client has in you and your business because they’ll see you as someone who can handle adversity and doesn’t try to pass the buck.
Step 1: Get up to date on all the project details and come ready with a strategy
Make sure you are up to date on all the project parameters before coming up with a few strategies of how to solve the delay before you speak with the client so that you can fully and clearly answer their questions about project completion.
Don’t come to the table with a problem and no solution. Make sure that when you talk with your client about the delay that they know that you are very aware of the final deadline. Confirm with any supplier involved to be sure they can accommodate a revised project schedule. Don’t forget to factor in details like shipping or production time required to finalize a project, as you need to be extra conscientious of your timeline after a delay.
Brainstorm with crew leads or staff members if required, but come to the table with an idea of how to handle the problem after collecting all the relevant data. This shows the client that you’ve done your homework and are actively doing something to solve the problem even if you have to change tactics later on.
Step 2: Take responsibility and communicate with the client as soon as you can
Don’t pass the blame to team members or vendors; this is all on you as the project manager so take full responsibility for the delay. Offering explanations that push the blame onto others only serves to make you look ineffective as a manager and out of control on your own project, and the client at the end of the day doesn’t really care where the problem came from, only that it's being handled and won’t happen again.
Don’t procrastinate. Bad news is better than no news especially on a large project that may have a number of other businesses reliant on your timeline. Giving your clients as much of a heads up as possible ensures they have the most time possible to deal with any issues the delay may cause them [Tenants moving in, starting other projects, or rescheduling other contractors].
Communicating frequently and often (even bad news) still sends the message that you are in control and handling things, even if your company hasn’t lived up to the expectations set. Leaving a client to guess what’s going on can give the impression that you don’t have a good pulse on your team.
Step 3: Don't overpromise
It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver than to communicate yet another set-back, even if it is tempting to tell the client that everything will be back to the way it was.
Step 4: Communicate in person whenever possible
Because there was an error on your part, communicating the bad news in person shows respect and assures your client that his or her project is valuable. It also gives you the best opportunity to see how the client reacts to the delay as accurately as possible (body language, and facial expressions) allowing you to address any other concerns right away.
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