How reducing the time between and during feedback loops can help you take control of a project’s timeline and go live faster.

Get everything done as quickly and as close together as possible.

In agency land, where everyone is always busy and stretched too thin, this can have the greatest impact on the delivery of projects.

There are two types of deadlines. Some aren’t really deadlines at all. And some are.

We’ve all heard stories about how clients want something done quickly, but when it comes to crunch time, they don’t do their part and bring their feedback, items, input to the table in a timely fashion. Or stories about how the client went M.I.A. for 6 months.

There are several reasons for this. And in my opinion, the 3rd of these is the biggest reason why.

The deadline issue and causes

1. The meaningless deadline

For a moment in time, they thought it was. But in reality, the end date of the project they’re asking for had no real connection to any strategic business activities of theirs. In the moment they thought it was needed right away, but really, it wasn’t. Nothing else they’re doing relies on this being completed.

2. The project is urgent but the client’s too busy

Or too focused on the ‘urgent’ rather than the ‘important’. I think is something we can all do at times. It’s easier and seems more relevant and important to deal with the 34 emails in your inbox rather than to allocate – and adhere to – time for your main goals. This can happen especially when your client wears all the hats in their business – note, telltale sign – but it can also happen to clients in large businesses with lots of support staff.

3. Project excitement levels taper off

I think this one’s just human nature and one of the main reasons project timelines fail, especially in website design/development land.

Especially for the active go-get-er’ types who love change, goals, doing new things and reaching new highs.

For a lot of people, starting a new project is exciting.

It’s rewarding. It’s the beginning of the thing they’ve been thinking about for a while perhaps. Or the thing they thought up last night.

Whatever the situation, they come into the project hot.

They read online or spoke heard someone’s advice that this is the thing they need to do. Now, it’s important.

It’s valuable.

It’s the answer to their problems.

It can solve all of their issues.

But the more time that passes, the excitement levels diminish. The lower these levels become, the less invested they are. The less invested they become, the harder it is to get their feedback.

Identifying the situation for your project

Here’s how you can identify the type of situation you’re dealing with.

Ask the client questions about the deadline. Questions like:

  • Why is this project important to you?
  • What does this project mean for you and your business?
  • What do you think you will get out of this at the end?
  • What do you hope this product/service will deliver for you?

Answers to these types of questions should help you uncover whether a project is actually urgent or not (scenario 1). And if it is, then you’re probably dealing with Scenario #2 or #3 above. Or a combination of the two.

If the project really is urgent, but the client’s too busy, do this:

Have them acknowledge this.

Either they will revise their requested deadline date or reorganise their tasks to do their part within the timeframe.

Whichever the outcome, it’s important to have this conversation.

Having this conversation shows them that you are aware of, and care, about the project’s deadline and ultimate success.

It also helps to cover you against clients who all of a sudden can turn around and start passing blame.

In general – speed solves all

Especially when it comes to the project excitement level scenario.

And here’s what you should do about that. (Pst, #4 is the single most important.)

1. Don’t delay

If it’s within your power and control to respond, act or do something today (or tomorrow), then don’t leave it until the end of the week or next week. A simple truth that we could do reminding of.

2. Keep your own priorities in check

Are you busy ‘reacting’ to typical agency life things? Or are you truly swamped? (If you’re truly swamped, have a chat with your managers or colleagues and try to change something.)

3. Keep it exciting

Make a big deal of milestones. Of reveals. Make it an event. Celebrate the wins.

The bigger and long a project, the more effort you should put into this. As those excitement levels drop, milestones and hitting goals within the timeline are points on that invisible graph where you can reboot and reignite excitement levels.

Not too dissimilar to how in good old video games hitting the next checkpoint will bump up your game time by another 30 seconds to get to the next checkpoint. A project’s milestone can give your client the reboot of energy, focus, drive and desire to make it to the next stage, and ultimately, completion.

4. Get everything done as quickly and as close together as possible

There are two types of ‘time’ during a project.

  1. Time for “doing the work”
  2. The time during “feedback loops”

Doing the work

The longer it takes to do the work before you hit a feedback loop, the more that can change in that time period. As we know, projects start with a specific brief.

Time is the ultimate killer and cause of changes to project briefs.

The longer you leave between getting the work done, the more you leave the door open for the client to change their mind – to come back with another idea or a new request – and when the brief changes on you midway through a project… well, we all know how that turns out.

Receiving the feedback and returning the feedback/revision

After working on a project for weeks on end, it’s possible to start getting worn out by the project yourself and to relax once you’ve delivered on a milestone.

Then, knowing you’re now waiting on the client, you can fall into passive mode.

When they come back with their feedback several days (or weeks!) later, you’re all consumed with another project and struggle to find the time to action their feedback.

It’s important to train yourself to not let off the pedal until a project is 100% complete.

Because project excitement levels are a human problem, not just a client problem, you too can be affected.

So do everything you can to reduce the time it takes to do the work, present the work, receive and action the client’s feedback and making it to the end of that project.

Then, celebrate!

In many agencies, there’s a massive culture around celebrating winning new clients and deals – the sales board.

But oftentimes the delivering, completing and closing off on a project can be an underappreciated, thankless, anticlimax of a moment that is forgotten as soon as that next email notification bings on your computer with feedback for another project.

Here’s to all project and client managers out there doing the grind – the typically unsexy part of agency life – but the part that’s vital to any agency’s customer satisfaction.