There can be no more frustrating experience than when a person you are relying on fails to deliver as promised. It’s called missing deadlines – the place that is forbidden to the CA(SA)!

There is one particular aspect of the Big 4 auditing firms: they teach their people about the importance of meeting deadlines. Deadlines are non-negotiable.

The real issue here is that, in the commercial environment, missing a deadline has a knock-on effect. If you are asked to complete a piece of work and are given a deadline, failure to deliver creates a bigger problem than is first apparent.

You see, your boss has more than likely confirmed the deadline with his boss and your miss will fall back on his brand. She cannot shift blame and has to take this dent to her reputation on the chin! That is not going make her very happy you can be assured!

Let me just explain what missing a deadline means: you arrive on the morning that the boss needs the work and tell him an hour before the meeting that you have not finished. That’s missing a deadline! Bad news all round. No time for her to do anything and she will be embarrassed.

The truth is that things do get in the way sometimes. One gets sick, the cat dies, the baby keeps you awake the whole night. So here are a few remedies to ensure you don’t trash your reputation:

  1. Under promise and over deliver:When asked ‘by when’, always build in as much fat as possible. When the boss says: “When can you let me have it?”, stretch out your delivery time as much as possible.
  2. Re-negotiate with time to spare: If you realise halfway through the project that you will not meet the deadline, get hold of the boss and re-negotiate the deadline. Usually the boss has built in his own bit of fat and he will give some of that to you. Push for as much time as possible.
  3. Ask for a deadline if one is not given: This might sound ridiculously obvious but sometimes the boss says “I need this as soon as possible!”. Pin her down. This could mean she only needs it in 2 days time. Get her to commit to a deadline so you know what to expect.
  4. Fudge it – take a short cut: When you see you’re running out of time and there is no more room to negotiate, move into emergency mode. Cut corners! You just might be pleasantly surprised to find that you have been in your perfectionist drama and you can dump some detail. This will allow you to still meet your deadline.
  5. Go for a rough ‘n dirty: In the absolute worst case scenario settle for a dump and mark it DRAFT. This allows you to at least deliver on time. The quality might be lacking but at least you have something. Remember this very important concept: something is better than nothing. At least you have something that the boss can work on and, because her reputation is also at stake, she will also apply ways of knocking together a workable rough ‘n dirty.

The golden rule to remember is that always treat deadlines seriously and if you have to duck and dive then do so. But don’t over promise and under deliver!