I had been in a situation where details about the task and the target to be followed have been explained to the team. However, in spite of multiple follow-ups, they fail to complete the defined tasks in the given timeline.

They come up with reasons such as 'I was occupied with personal works', 'I was not well', etc.

However, at the end, I will be responsible to answer to the client for the missed deadline. How to deal with this situation with the client and convince him?

  • 2
    Welcome to pmse. Your title asks how to deal with the team, while your Question asks how to deal wit the client. You should change one of them to fit the other, to avoid your Question being closed as too broad.
    – Sarov
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 13:52

4 Answers 4


There is a not a single answer to this questions. Its imperative to understand how a team should perform so that you can spot dysfunction and respond appropriately. You need to understand the dysfunction to address the problem.

One resource that comes to mind is the book "the 5 dysfunctions of a team". enter image description here

While what you mention initially sounds like "avoidance of accountability" and "Lack of committment" this may come from a deadline that is ridiculous or other requirements that are overbearing but because there's an "absence of trust" the team can't talk about the issues and things end up derailing.

I suggest you refocus yourself as a leader of people (regardless of your title) which is much more than a manager (of anything, people, projects, deliverables, clients, etc). It is how well you are able to lead that affects the performance of the team and acceptance of the client.

Driving the team through control will fail and backfire as you'll invite the bottom four items in the pyramid. Servant Leadership will serve you better. (think agile, read about scrum master principles etc). Anything from John Maxwell on leadership is a good read.

Another resource I'd suggest is "Extreme Ownership - How Navy Seals Lead and Win". It highlights that given two teams - one high performing and one low performing - swapping leaders shows that performance follows the leader (chapter 2 - No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders).


Earned Value Management. I'd re characterize the problem; the problem isn't that your team isn't completing the task, the problem is that the project manager is unable to communicate to the sponsors the status of the project and is unable to identify or execute interventions to rescue the project.

First thing is to set intermediate milestones. If you measure task completion at task completion, you have already failed. There is no opportunity to intervene or rescue. Task completion needs to be measured at a time when intervention is still possible. If the task is "Deliver the documentation for project Foo", and it takes 2 weeks, but can be rushed for 1 week, then you need a milestone at 1 week. That milestone has to be defined - e.g. "At 1 week I expect an outline and rough draft; the second week will involve wordsmithing, quality checking and peer review." If you don't have that at the 1 week milestone you can add resources, drop scope or negotiate with the sponsors for an extension (perhaps explicitly invoke technical debt).

The project manager's primary responsibility is to at any instant report to management a well formed estimate of project completion. (I estimate that there is a 90% chance that the project will be delivered on January 15, 2019, and a 1% chance that it will be delayed beyond February 2nd). The only way to fulfill that responsibility is to understand risks to schedule and issues. People will get ill, they will have personal problems; that is a natural consequence of working with people rather than parts. That estimate of completion, and the opportunity to take action to increase confidence in that estimate relies on understanding the status of the underlying deliverables and work products.


You have indicated a few reasons why a task was behind schedule but, in reality, there are far more variables involved that affect schedule performance that a couple of personal reasons. Work is probabilistic and personal reasons, environmental reasons, external dependency reasons, aggressive target reasons, and then a ton of random or aleatory reasons will affect where you come in on schedule in both favorable and unfavorable ways. So, how to respond to the team and how to respond to your client really depends on the drivers of why you are late.

Your team will always have personal blockers that affect their individual performance and they will also have natural variability in their performance. Those things should have been considered when you created your schedule and your planned duration. Sometimes it goes your way, other times it doesn't. But if you planned well, you should have both favorable and unfavorable variances that net out to a reasonable over or under schedule.

And you have have a credible way to manage your schedule so you can unearth variances early and you can both mitigate and communicate them out early and often. Use critical path management, critical chain, earned schedule as a few alternatives to monitor. When you start seeing you're late, you inform your customer of the forecasted variance and your plan to mitigate. Sometimes mitigation fails and you need to educate your client of that possibility.

Otherwise, this is what PM is. It is managing risks and variances and communicating the same to all of your stakeholders.


"I had personal matters" ... "I was not well" ...

This project sucks and I was interviewing with another employer ...

As "eAndy" said, you must become "a leader of people." Everyone has 'personal matters,' and everyone gets sick now and then, but if they're giving you these 'reasons' for why the work isn't getting done – (a) these are merely excuses; and (b) they're serving them to you either because they don't feel that they can speak with you freely, or because they assume that you just don't care.

Any of the "5 dysfunctions of a team" could be at-play here; most likely all of them.

Personally, what I try to do is to get the team to some neutral off-site location, then present myself as someone who is both "part of your team" and "responsible to the folks upstairs, as in fact we all are," and try to clear the air. Then, with both my future talking and my entire body-language, try to get a breakthrough. Try to – in utter and complete confidence if possible – clear the air. If you can undo that very first bottled-up cork, the rest usually come in a rush. The most important thing that you can do is to listen, and to, with your body language, signal receptivity.

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