Why should we avoid rigid deadlines?

Why should we avoid rigid deadlines?
28 December 2021     3350

Why should we avoid rigid deadlines?

Deadlines are an integral part of any project. And as such there is a way of setting them in relation to a certain day, or, otherwise, changing deadlines depending on the circumstances relevant.

This factor is becoming more and more controversial in the modern world. Studios, graphic design companies and video game developers, among others, are all significantly dependent on certain directives which are made on the backdrop of deadlines.

One common cause for the problem is the financial incentive, as well as considering it more important than say the quality of the product or a service; In worse cases - the workplace environment.

The usual message is very direct "Finish the project." And the order is usually given without any considerations for other factors. It must be noted that an overworked group, that has to work in disagreeable conditions, is, as a result, less productive. That is why the stories about crunching are becoming more and more prevalent.

Crunch places almost anyone in an unsatisfactory position considering the fact that competition is typically very high. Consequently, anyone who refuses to take up additional work or hours is either quickly let go or demoted (in either unofficial or official manner). It is not surprising that companies, in almost any circumstance, prefer those who do extra work without even voicing their complaints.

It is incredibly evident how unbalanced the power relationship is. We must note that such a relation between the consumer and the supplier is not natural at all. It is partially caused by (1) the incentives which give corporations extra motivation to be competitive and try to maximize their profits, or (2) by individual people who refuse to put the motivation aside and do what is right.

On the one hand we are dealing with an economic system which incentivizes such behavior, on the other with individual people, who lack any sort of valuable principles.

Arbitrary and unhelpful

First of all, Fat Beehive, is offering us a review of how the deadlines are actually formed. Usually it is a direct order from management or stakeholders, who are not involved in the actual work and as such do not have insight into the technical difficulties that a project faces. Neither are they the best judges for how long a given issue will likely persist without a satisfactory answer.

Therefor, deadlines are usually made up with little information. "Get it done by the end of december" sounds smooth when you say it but it is anything but convincing. It is much better to actually deliver a high quality product when the work ought to be done.

Management and stakeholders have already heard these arguments. It is not news that they do not really care about them. But at the same time it is evident that strict deadlines hinder the process of creating a productive environment. In worse cases we might have to deal with burnout or high levels of stress.

The project can be potentially conceived in the following ways:

Fast and cheap, but not that well, relatively.
Fast and well but with more resources.
Well and with little resources but slowly/

An alternative approach

Less rigid deadlines allow you to make tiny adjustments in order to avoid taxing your employees too much as well as help you retain a productive environment. Of course if you avoid setting deadlines altogether, this will, too hinder your organizational operations. Therefore a more balanced approach is recommended.

Subdividing a large project into smaller segments, sub-deadlines, helps you develop a more flexible timelines and will allow you to foresee possible delays in advance.

It is perfectly comprehensible why your typical management does not support this type of approach. More time means more resources. Just like other life-related situations we have to deal with ethics here, too. Which is more valuable: additional resources, outcompeting your competitors and less time spend on the project or better working conditions, more satisfied employees and actually ethical decisions.

Making this choice is not a subject of much deliberation for most people. If one has at least some valuable characteristics the decision is easy to make. The same applies to those who are devoid of these and the ease with which they make their decision.

Ethics, in this as well as any other field, is the active component. Thinking about what ethics has to offer us in every single situation individually is not what this field is about. It has to be treated as an end in itself. And the harm by ignoring it is only done to the person who has ignored it in the first place.