Many projects have firm deadlines that are the result of business constraints, the fiscal calendar or the relationship with other projects. However, many projects do not have a firm external deadline. In fact, your sponsor may want the project completed as soon as possible, but the sponsor does not have a reason why the deadline should be one date versus another.

All projects, by definition, need an end-date. When you manage projects that do not have a firm deadline, it is important to work with the project team to set one. You still create a Project Charter and schedule based on the best guess of the resources available and work effort required. Also, bring the team into the planning process so everyone knows what you are shooting for. Once the team agrees with the schedule, then that becomes your firm end-date, and you should manage it as firmly as if there was a business driver behind it.

A project team without a firm deadline will be unfocused and will ultimately take much longer to deliver than necessary. The project manager should work with the project team to set a reasonable deadline and then hold everyone accountable for that date.  This allows the team to work with purpose and focus. It is also a way of making sure that the projects don’t continue indefinitely. Even if the client does not have a sense of urgency for when the project is completed, you will want to make sure that the project team does not have this same attitude.

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