People are lazy.

I am not making any value judgement when I state this fact. What I’m trying to point out is that all living organisms are hard-wired to save time and energy. It’s a survival mechanism.

While the proletariat morals of modern western culture socially condition and educate people to be disciplined, hard working, and responsible; these ideals of professionalism are counter to human instinct.

If we were ants who were hard wired to slavishly perform to benefit our collony at our individual expense, things would be much simpler and we would hit all deadlines.

However, we are not ants, and people remain lazy.

If you want to hit your deadlines for real, especially when you are working with contractors, you need to come into terms with this fact.

No task tracking software, no iteration of agile methodology and no team organization will replace the importance of you coming into terms with this fact.

Even when your programmers are approaching a project with their bestest intentions, and even when they have skin in the game with massive winning potential; their human biology will interfere with you hitting your timeline goals.

Pay attention here: their instincts will conflict with you hitting your goals.

You need to understand this dynamic in order to succeed!

Once you accept this as a natural fact, once you stop resisting it, and once you stop holding your employees to unrealistic, non-human standards…

Then you can enter a space of calm clarity and start asking yourself “how can I actually hit my deadlines when I have teams made up of humans?”

The solution is both counter intuitive and elegantly simple:

You need to setup your environment so failure is impossible and success is guaranteed, regardless of what development process you follow.

That means, you need to setup the environment so that it is impossible for your workers to miss their deadlines.

So, how do you do that?

This is not achieved via appealing to their rational brain, setting up strict rules and policies or micromanaging them to death.

You need to speak to them at a gut level. You need to manipulate their emotional-instinctive brains using tactile symbols that influence their thinking and behavior.

You might think: “Err… I need to, what?”

Here’s an example that will clarify…

Let’s say you are trying to lose weight. Coming up with rules, on what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat is all good.

But these on their own will inevitably fail when your emotions-brain-genes are determined to keep you fat.

You need to set your emotional ecosystem so that your success is inevitable.

How can you do that?

Why not put the picture of a disgusting fat torso on your fridge door?

Every time you reach for your fridge, you will be exposed to a disgusting emotional impression. And this will give you sufficient emotional fuel to stick to your guns.

Here’s the key…

When you head to the fridge, while your rational brain knows you are doing something bad, your instincts give you the feedback that you are doing something good – pending your imminent sugar high.

Similarly, when a developer is slacking off on Facebook instead of working, or experimenting with a new design pattern rather than just coding the minimal viable product; their inner project manager might be warning them (“you’re going to be late dude”), but their emotional systems keep rewarding them (“look at this awesome code you just wrote, you’re so clever!”)

You need to emotionally, viscerally remind people of the benefits of hitting their deadlines.

And perhaps even more importantly (twice more importantly according to neuroscience), you need to viscerally remind them of the consequences of missing their deadlines.

This is how you setup an ecosystem of success where you hit all your deadlines.

This is also why nations like Japan and Germany are revered in project management as impeccably punctual professionals – as they have this emotional ecosystem build into their very culture.

In very simple terms: if you want to hit your deadlines for real, your deadlines must become personal.

We have a few tricks up our sleeve that our advisers use to oversee teams and to make sure they hit their deadlines. If you want the specifics, contact us.

Just one word of caution… When it comes to setting up emotional ecosystems to guarantee compliance, tact is everything.

Thanks for reading!