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Situation: You are part of a team working on a common project. On-time delivery matters to you, less so to some of your colleagues. You want their input by the agreed deadline and you are worried they are not going to deliver it. What can you do?


Depending on your position in the team and the phase of the collaboration, you can consider the following strategies and try to influence your colleagues.


Address the topic in advance


Maybe this advice comes too late for your current project, but whenever it is possible, address the importance of on-time delivery from the very beginning – perhaps even before the team members have decided about their participation.


  • “If this project works out well, it might have a huge impact, and we will be the ones who have contributed to it. But it will require on-time delivery at each step, that´s crucial. Are you keen on participating in a project like that?”

Empower them in advance, even if the priorities have already been set up before they got involved. There’s a great difference between deciding ourselves that we are ready to meet a deadline and being told to do so.

  • “How do you imagine your participation in the project?”
  • “ What and when would you be able to deliver?”
  • “What can we count on from your side?”

Share the responsibility and power: give the other person some space to suggest what - and when - they are able and willing to provide, so that you do not push them into promising something they have never considered realistic. It can prevent stress later on.

Another thing you can do in advance, especially if you are the project manager, is to suggest they provide you with the results in stages. This can help you prevent several things, including that they start working on the task too late, or spend too much time on the last 10% of the task due to perfectionism. When you see it is 90% ready, give them positive feedback and hints for the (only) things that may need to be added or brushed up. However, be careful not to overcontrol. Comment on the results, but give them freedom about the way they do the task unless they ask you for advice.


Address the topic in progress


Re-evaluate the situation

When the original plan seems impossible to follow, re-evaluating and adjusting the plan is not a failure, but a part of quality management.

Indeed, things are supposed to be delivered in the desired quality and extent, as well as on time, that is what the original time plan and agreements were made for. However, sometimes it turns out that the original time estimation was not realistic for the desired extent and quality, and no matter what is done from now on, it is unlikely to get completed in the time originally agreed. In that case, it is a matter of priorities, and you need to be clear about what is most important in this particular case: delivery by the planned date; sticking to the planned extent; or achieving the planned quality level even if it might take more time? Sometimes the time is very important, even if that means adjustments in the extent and/or the content. Other times, you might want to prioritize the content quality.

Whether you are the co-ordinator of the project or a team member, you can suggest the re-evaluation talk. Involving the whole team in the evaluation and any necessary adjustments will give you space to learn about the different views of team members, to present yours and to seek a common solution while sharing the responsibility.


Encourage your colleagues

If you acknowledge that meeting a deadline is important and still realistic, consider the following examples and strategies to communicate this to your colleague(s):

  • “When you send it to me, it will help me hugely with preparing my presentation. Would you be ready to help me in this way and send it to me by Tuesday?”

We get motivated when we feel useful. Explain how their on-time delivery would help you and the project.

  • “Given that you have not sent your input to me yet, I assume the whole task turned out quite time-consuming. So I’d better start working on my part without delay, because there is no way for me to postpone my deadline. Can I expect your input tonight?”

Recognize their struggles or concerns, without accusation. Share the responsibility.

  • “If we don´t have your part by tomorrow, we will need to start doing our part relying just on estimates, and this could make the whole result quite weak. Your part will really make a difference to the quality, so we are all hoping to have it from you tonight. How are you, how is it going?”

Illustrate what a difference their on-time delivery can make. They might not realise why it matters. Find a point that matters to them too, not only to you.

  • “To me it is really important that I have the input today, so that I can focus on the next step. Can I count on it? And what is important to you about this project? Is there anything you need from me for that?”

Create a collaborative space in which you can both make mutual requests.

  • “Imagine the moment we are done with our parts. Do you already have plans for how you are going to reward yourself when you complete this?”

Visualisation of a reward can be one of the most motivating things.

  • “I think that if we manage to get this piece of work done on time, we can be really proud of ourselves.”  

Instead of making them feel bad, offer them a way to feel good.


Do you have further ideas or suggestions? Do not hesitate to share them as a comment below.

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