The Course That Needs To Be Finished Yesterday

Monday, October 8, 2012

We have all been there. You are given a project. All seems to be going well. There appears to be a specific business purpose and a well-defined target audience. There are a multitude of resources both internal and external to pull from; graphics already exist and there is even equipment available for training. Suddenly, however, the lovely bliss you existed in is shattered as your stakeholders explain that everything will need to be complete next week.

The project seemed like a dream…until it became…The Course That Needs to Be Finished Yesterday. So what can you do about this situation?

Set Time Expectations

Explain how long it normally takes to develop the type of training class your stakeholders want. If you can reference other courses that you have created that they are familiar with (and respect), you can help to set timing expectations. For example, you might say, “Remember that course I did that you liked last quarter on the JIA22 software? That took about 7 weeks to complete.”

Redefine deliverables

It may be that you can accomplish something tangible by the deadline. And you may be able to pilot the course in phases, with each phase becoming more and more complete. Redefine your deliverables if necessary so you can at least start to meet the business needs of your stakeholders.

Get Organized


With rapid course development, there will be a lot going on at once. Avoid duplications and waste by staying organized. Keep track of what you have and what you still need, and make sure that you have a file organization system where items can be easily located.

Request Outside Help

It is not out of line nor weak to ask for external help when you have a project deadline that you simply will not be able to meet. Even if you ask for external help, you can continue to play the role of project manager so that the training will still have the look and feel you want.

Clear Your SME’s Schedule

Explain to your stakeholders that you finishing the course is highly dependent upon how much face time you can get with your subject matter expert (SME). If your stakeholders are serious about having the project be completed immediately, then it should be no problem for them to clear your SME’s schedule of other responsibilities so that your SME can focus on the project with you.

Under-Promise and Over-Deliver

Be careful about what you promise. Actually, if you want to keep your sanity, don’t promise more than what you absolutely know for sure that you can deliver. It is better to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around. Be realistic about what you can accomplish and then promise that and only that.

The Course That Needs to Be Finished Yesterday can temporary blindside the best of us. But with a few strategies, you can turn the situation into something doable and successful.

About the Author
Sarah Wakefield is a technical training supervisor for Schlumberger Limited in Houston. Her primary responsibility is managing the design and development of technical training courses for audiences in locations such as the United States, Europe, South America, the Middle East, Russia, China, and North Africa. Before this, Sarah worked as a curriculum designer for various organizations. Sarah also was an instructor of communication, writing, and life success courses at Ivy Tech State College and at Purdue University in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Sarah holds a master's degree in communication from Purdue, as well as a bachelor's degree from Purdue with a double major in professional writing and psychology.
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