Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…

Is that schedule padded?

In my book, a slightly padded project schedule is a good thing. If the client changes her mind, a new solution can be created. If the carton of paper is damaged, the ink won’t dry, or there’s a back-up in bindery, the deadline can still be met.

As an added bonus, studios look good to clients when the product still delivers on time, or even delivers sooner than promised.

Today, for example, I’m glad that my digital press vendor told me that he absolutely had to have the art on Tuesday in order to complete the print project that’s due to the client not later than this Friday afternoon. Sure enough, the files couldn’t release until Wednesday morning, but we will make that Friday deadline all the same. The printer had padded the turnaround time by a day.

It used to be that the more steps were in a project, the more padding was added to the schedule at each process step. When asked how much time they needed, design added two days extra, electronic production added a day, print management added three days. This allowed for taking care of unexpected developments, but sometimes resulted in more extra days than the project really required. People tend to look askance at these bloated schedules.

No padding in sight

Now that people have become accustomed to instantaneous results, I have observed that padding is becoming a foreign concept. Everything is electronic, right? What could possibly go wrong? Surely that step won’t take any time at all! This line of thinking results in production schedules that lack padding altogether. But if there’s a single glitch along the way, the job WILL be late.

Disaster avoidance tips

  • Document the actual time your projects are taking. Are you meeting all milestones, or are certain steps taking longer more often than not? Use this information to build sufficient time into future schedules.
  • Never make promises to a client without FIRST checking with your team to determine what’s possible. If you explain the challenges and ask for ideas, you’re likely to get the fast turn you hope for. But if you announce to your team that you’ve already promised the client without asking them, you’re going to get pushback or grudging acquiescence.
  • Don’t assume that everyone has padded the schedule to allow time for every contingency. You might find yourself explaining a late job to an unhappy client.

A seasoned project planner has the experience to know where the pitfalls are most likely and add judicious padding to the schedule in key places. Those schedules will be realistic and doable, but un-bloated.

I think there’s a happy medium, don’t you?

© 2010 Nani Paape